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Perdue: Lake ruling hurts others
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Stacey Dickson, president of Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau, smiles Wednesday while listening to Gov. Sonny Perdue speak during the Governor’s Tourism Conference at Lake Lanier Islands Resort. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

A federal ruling on Georgia’s use of Lake Lanier as a water source won’t just affect Georgians, the state’s governor said Wednesday.

"There’s several, many, other states that have reservoirs for which water supply’s not a stated purpose," said Gov. Sonny Perdue. "And if Judge (Paul) Magnuson’s ruling stood, many other states are going to be in jeopardy of losing their water supply usage from federal reservoirs. That’s a congressional thing that only congressional action can take."

The governor visited Lake Lanier on Wednesday as he discussed its future; he spoke at the Governor’s Tourism Conference at Lake Lanier Islands.

Considering that impact, the governor said the month-old decision will require some sort of a congressional remedy, but he did say the governors of Georgia, Alabama and Florida will have to come together.

Magnuson’s decision orders governors of the three states to come to an agreement on the lake’s use in three years or risk losing the lake as the source of water for most of metro Atlanta.

"If the governors got together today and agreed on the reauthorization of Lake Lanier, we can’t pass a bill — that part is Congress’ part," Perdue said. "The allocation of water from Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River is the governors’ part, so it’s a division of duties."

Perdue also spoke briefly about the impact of recent federal legislation on the state and its residents, calling the federal climate change bill a concern and stating that legislators should not become reliant on funds from the federal stimulus program.

Federal stimulus money has been helpful for the state’s education and Medicaid programs, but Perdue said state legislators must not build budgets around the federal money. He said stimulus funding has been spread over three budget years, and should not be used to create new programs.

"My concern is we cannot get used to this stimulus, because it goes away in 2011," Perdue said. "I’ve tried to sort of smooth this over the budget years, ’09, ’10 and ’11, and make sure the legislature understands one-time money is good when you really need it but you can’t get used to it."

The governor said the federal climate change bill, which would require the U.S. to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by about 80 percent by midcentury, will have a detrimental effect on Georgians, especially low-income residents.

The state primarily relies on energy from coal-fired plants, which are known to emit high levels of carbon dioxide. And while Perdue said state officials are "looking forward to contributing to the renewable equation," he said he was concerned about the local effect of the national energy bill.

Referring to the bill as the "cap and tax" bill, Perdue said the bill would burden the state’s poorer residents, who would be paying more for their coal-generated electricity. Perdue said the bill, if passed by the U.S. Senate, could result in a 35 to 50 percent increase in residential utility rates.

"I just think that’s unacceptable," Perdue said. "... To extract money from people’s pockets for things they have to have, electricity, on a monthly basis is going to be more harm than good at this point."

The state will continue to use coal while it transitions to cleaner energy, Perdue said, but state officials are working to create renewable energy with Suniva, a manufacturer of solar cells that set up shop in Gwinnett County last year, and are developing plans to use pine trees to produce cellulosic ethanol.

"Coal will be a continued part of our energy for the foreseeable future and we can transition out of that with better technology, cleaner coal, but we’re taking steps to have zero carbon emissions here in the state," Perdue said.

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