Albany, GA attorney missing the point about ordinance against pipelines

County attorneys are paid to be cautious. County and city Commissioners are elected to represent the people. Which will Albany and Dougherty County listen to about unnecessary, destructive, and hazardous pipelines like Sabal Trail?

Carlton Fletcher, Albany Herald, 4 August 2014, LOCAL GOVERNMENT 101: Albany’s municipal government based on charter, codes,

Dougherty County officials, who represent residents outside the city limits, say municipalities like Albany have more governmental flexibility in that they are not completely bound by state mandates. But Albany’s city attorney says that is not exactly accurate.

“The state has the authority to preempt any local laws other than zoning,” Nathan Davis says. “If state law ‘moves into an area’ — such as the fireworks law that went into effect in July — municipalities must have a local ordinance that matches the state law.

“There has been in our community a call by some to create an ordinance that would impact the ultimate decision of whether that (Sabal Trail Transmission) pipeline is allowed to come through here. But any ordinance we pass would be preempted by state and federal law, so our ordinance would not hold up to a legal challenge.”

The fireworks law is a red herring. The State of Georgia requires every county to have a Comprehensive Plan and land use regulations. A land use ordinance rooted in the county’s Comprehensive Plan is quite different from following a one-off state law.

Some points he’s missing:

  1. He doesn’t know an ordinance rooted in the county’s Comprehensive Plan wouldn’t hold up to legal challenge. Such ordinances HAVE held up in New York State and Pennsylvania, all the way to their state Supreme Courts. Plus local fracking bans in NY State are what led to the entire state banning fracking.
  2. Even if a county ordinance didn’t hold up, it would cost Sabal Trail time and money to attack it, and that would contribute to stopping the pipeline. Now that even Georgia has passed a solar financing law, even former solar pooh-pooher Georgia Power is selling rooftop solar, and Georgia is the fastest growing solar market in the country, if Florida passes a solar financing law in January, as Gulf Power and Duke Energy are recommending, it will become even more obvious that gouging more obsolete fossil fuel pipes into the Sunshine State is the wave of the past. Investors are already shorting North American frackers. Soon they’ll be shorting pipeline companies like Spectra Energy and frackers like FPL, and then this pipeline bubble will bust.
  3. An ordinance would keep out future unnecessary pipelines, just like Jefferson County, Florida, after passing a resolution to prevent Nestle from sucking up its aquifer water, passed an ordinance against bottling plants that keeps out not just Nestle, but also any other aquifer-water-sucking invading corporations.
  4. Oh, and Jefferson County’s county seat, Monticello, FL, just passed a resolution against fracking, which is more on the road to a fracking ban in Florida, like what happened in New York State. If Florida bans fracking, the calls for a nationwide ban will become louder and more likely to succeed.

What do you want to do, city and county elected officials of Georgia, Florida, and Alabama? Follow your cautious attorneys and do nothing? Or lead the state and country in stopping unnecessary, destructive, and hazardous new pipelines?


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