Bill Seeks to Allow Private Companies to Circumvent Local Gov’t Input for Permits for Hyundai Water Supply

The legislature is set to take up a measure that would take the heat off of local government officials currently under fire over how the new Hyundai Megasite will get water.

Lawmakers out of Chatham and Effingham counties have proposed a measure that will allow Hyundai to get the water they need irrespective of what local counties do with well permits.

As it stands right now, the recommendation is that permit applications be filed by Bulloch County on behalf of Bryan County so that Bryan County can supply the water to Hyundai. Citizens have been in an uproar over the proposal and have worked tirelessly to convince local officials not drill the wells over concerns that wells will run dry or fall victim to saltwater contamination. At a meeting on February 26, EPD officials told concerned citizens that they expect the closest wells within a five mile radius of the two proposed wells to be impacted minimally and would establish a fund for remediation to which they would encourage donations.

Now, the legislature is stepping in to assist Hyundai.

House Bill 1146, sponsored by State Reps. Ron Stephens, Jesse Petrea, and Bill Hitchens, would allow a private company to circumvent the current process which requires counties to seek the permits for water services from EPD. Under Georgia law, private water companies are not able to apply for the permits without the support and co-application of a local government.

With all of the opposition to the two proposed wells for the Hyundai Megasite in Bryan County, this would allow the company to apply for the permits from EPD even if Bulloch County Commissioners voted against the memorandum of understanding with Bryan County to provide the water.

The measure was filed by Stephens on February 6, 2024 and passed out of committee on February 22, though not unanimously. It was presented in the Rules committee, the step before a full House vote, on Tuesday morning.

The bill makes no specific reference to Hyundai but Stephens referenced the intent during the Rules committee Tuesday and the effort was echoed by a colleague.

During the Rules committee, Chair of the House Natural Resource Committee, Lynne Smith, told fellow members that if the legislature does not pass the bill, “there will be a big empty building on I-16.”

Stephens also said of his bill:

“As you might know, yesterday we had Hyundai here which is, um, depositing $12.6 billion dollars into, in investments into our state. Um, several thousand employees, twelve times bigger than anything we’ve ever done in the state. This is the missing piece for workforce development, has to do with allowing a private water system to supply water in an area that cannot be supplied by the county.”

The issue, however, is that Bryan County cannot supply the water due to their ‘yellow zone’ designation by EPD and Bulloch County officials may ultimately decide the county does not want to supply the water at the expense of its citizens. In that case, if this bill passes, the permits could be issued anyway.

You can watch the two minute clip of the discussion by Stephens and Smith below.

You can read the text of the bill here.

Jessica Szilagyi

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of TGV News She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement and corrections. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.

Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast.'

Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

4 Comments

  1. Would the remediation from the plant repay citizens for having to lower their private water wells? The state should should never have allowed a foreign company to purchase land in this country. If, perchance they didn’t sell but leased it to them, they should have planned for the impact to our ecosystem,ie: wetlands streams, rivers etc.

    • There is absolutely nothing in the bill that limits this to the one instance referenced here.

      It would allow ANY private company to apply for a permit on behalf of an unserved area, including HYUNDAI. For the next 5 years.

      There is nothing in this bill that prevents a private company from assuming the well permit applications if Bulloch County does not see them through.

      There is no listed “intent” in the language of the bill. It is one of the broadest EPD bills in years.

      It’s lovely that one water service provider wishes to help re: residential but that is not the limitation of the bill.

      And the Chair of the House Natural Resources committee said yesterday that if the legislature doesn’t pass this bill, there will be “a big empty building” on I-16.

      As a lobbyist, you should know all of these things.

      https://youtu.be/imYQufIEiJw?si=pwALgHFre69Tt9EC

  2. They should not have built this plant knowing that Bryan County was in a yellow zone. They should not have expected another county to supply them with this much water.
    What are our politicians thinking? You can’t build a house without a water supply. It has already put a burden on all Bulloch county taxpayers as our taxes increased by 44%. Retired taxpayers cannot afford this only to make the Koreans rich. It’s not right but what is anymore?

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