Georgia’s Board Of Natural Resources Announces New Environmental Protection Division Director

On Wednesday, the Georgia Board of Natural Resources (DNR) voted unanimously to approve Jeff Cown as Director of the Environmental Protection Division (EPD), effective August 16.

According to a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Cown, an EPD veteran who first joined the agency in 1990, was nominated by Gov. Brian Kemp and approved by the DNR board at a special called meeting. Since 2018, Cown has led the state parks division of DNR, which manages 70 parks and historic sites. Before that, he served as chief of the Land Protection branch overseeing permitting and compliance associated with solid waste, surface mining and hazardous waste generators, among other areas.”

In a press release, Kemp said that he looks “forward to Jeff’s continued service to our state as EPD Director.”

“With an accomplished and dedicated history in this field, he will be an asset to the Division as it continues the essential work of ensuring Georgia remains a good steward of our natural resources while balancing the needs of our citizens. I also want to thank my Executive Counsel, David Dove, for serving as Interim EPD Director,” he added. 

During a brief interview, Cown said he was not planning to enact major change but instead continue the current trajectory EPD and balance the protection of natural resources with “smart growth,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Cown said that the biggest challenge will be staffing the agency. He also said he was looking into the proposed Twin Pines mining project near the Okefenokee Swamp, as well as the EPD’s handling of coal ash, a byproduct of coal-generated electrical power.

“I do have a background in it but I’ve got to look at it and see where we’re at,” Cown said of the Twin Pines proposal. “You have to take that scientific review and communicate it to the people and gain their trust by working with them, and I think they’ve done that.”

“Twin Pines has said the mine will not harm the fragile Okefenokee ecosystem, but the proposal has spurred fierce opposition among many environmental advocates and criticism from scientists, including some working for the federal government. Some opponents of the mine were cautiously optimistic about Cown’s appointment because of his scientific background and experience with land protection,” the report said. 

“Director Cown should be able to immediately recognize and appreciate the overwhelming independent scientific consensus that the Twin Pines mine project threatens to damage the swamp in numerous ways,” said Josh Marks, an environmental attorney who has fought efforts to mine near the Okefenokee.

D & B Staff

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