Judge limits Ogeechee riverkeeper's legal standing

ATLANTA -- An Atlanta judge has ruled that the Ogeechee Riverkeeper and its members do not have standing to bring a case about the Ogeechee River.

 

Attorney Don Stack, who represents the Riverkeeper, called the ruling “unbelievable but not surprising.”

“The people who live on the river don’t have standing,” said Hutton Brown, an attorney with GreenLaw who also represented the Riverkeeper. “If they don’t, who does?”

The nonprofit was seeking to challenge the remedy the Georgia Environmental Protection Division reached in September with polluter King America Finishing four months after the largest fish kill in state history left more than 38,000 blistered and bloated fish floating down the black water river.

In an 11-page decision issued Tuesday, Administrative Law Judge Lois Oakley wrote that the Ogeechee Riverkeeper and its members did not meet the legal criteria needed to establish their right to challenge the consent order in court.

The consent order requires King America Finishing, a textile finishing company located in Screven County, to produce $1 million worth of as-yet-undetermined environmental projects on the river. The deal was widely criticized as too lenient on a company that could have been fined as much as $91 million for a fire retardant operation that discharged illegally for five years before it was discovered in investigations following the fish kill.

Without standing, the petition was dismissed. Brown said the Riverkeeper will appeal the decision to Superior Court.

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