Ga. AG: Local rules can't stand in state agency's way

By John O'Brien | Jul 14, 2009


ATLANTA (Legal Newsline) - Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker recently wrote that the state Department of Transportation shouldn't be required to follow the same environmental laws as everyone else.

Baker wrote on Thursday that the DOT and its construction projects are not subject to post-development stormwater runoff regulations or other ordinances passed by local governments. Baker, a Democrat, is running for governor next year.

The opinion is a blow to those upset with polluted stormwater runoff.

"It has been well-settled that local governments exercise only the powers delegated to them by the state and that an attempt by a local governing authority, county or municipality to exercise an undelegated power against the state is ultra vires (beyond the powers)," Baker wrote.

"A general power granted to a local government does not apply to the state or its departments, agencies, and instrumentalities in the absence of express language in the statutory grant.

"This immunity from local regulation of state property is based upon fundamental principles of government, necessary so that functions of government are not unduly impeded."

In a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the executive director of the nonprofit Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper expressed her discontent.

"Polluted storm water is the largest pollution problem in Georgia waterways, particularly in urban areas like metro Atlanta," Sally Bethea said, according to the report.

"The attorney general's opinion says, in a loud voice, that the state doesn't have to abide by the same rules as everybody else."

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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