Building a better future for the next generation will not matter if the next generation is not around to enjoy that future. Perhaps the greatest factor influencing the quality of life for ourselves and our kids is the state of Georgia’s environment. From water and air quality to energy, from waste management to parks, a sick environment will result in a sick population. I aim to protect and improve Georgia’s natural environment for the health and well-being of all.
As we saw starting a couple years ago in Flint, Michigan, water quality is vital to public health, yet current regulations don’t go far enough in protecting the public interest. Flint may be the most visible evidence of this, but there is an example much closer to home – since Flint, several school districts in the metro Atlanta area began testing their water for lead. Over a third had lead levels over fifteen parts per billion. Even trace amounts of one part per billion can have an impact on student development, which is why the EPA has set their maximum contaminant level goal at zero. However, this goal is not enforceable; and with the ongoing attacks against the EPA by some members of Congress, we cannot rely on them getting more strict. It is time for the state to step in. As a legislator, I will push for enforcement of zero lead in school drinking water, and will pursue grants to help underfunded school districts to repair or replace antiquated systems to get them down to zero.
The most recent edition of the American Lung Association’s State of the Air report shows that three counties received a failing grade, two received a D, and six received a C – including right here in Cobb County, which failed as recently as 2016. This is greatly improved from previous years, but we can still do better. The primary cause of these low grades is ground level ozone – produced by a chemical reaction between sunlight and pollutants such as vehicle emissions. Ozone can be harmful to human health. I will pursue cleaner air through expanding mass transit and incentivizing electric vehicle ownership. Both of these can significantly reduce the amount of vehicle emissions in the air, which will improve air quality for all of us.
Let’s face it: there is no such thing as clean coal. Some newer coal technology may be less dirty than older coal technology, but it is still far from clean. In order to protect our environment and move our energy sector into the future, we need to leave coal in the past. Thus far, nuclear has been the preferred alternative – but as the delays and cost overruns at Plant Vogtle have shown, nuclear power may not be the most cost-efficient source of power. Solar power technology has grown far more efficient over the years, and the cost to deploy has plummeted. Part of the price drop was due to low cost solar panels imported from overseas – thanks to new tariffs, costs may rise again. We can offset this potential cost increase – especially for Georgia – by using tax incentives to encourage investment in solar panel manufacturing in the state of Georgia. Local manufacturing of panels will not only create good jobs, it will provide a nearby source of materials that will allow our state to expand our solar sector at minimal cost by reducing shipping costs.