Smith, Gambrell & Russell attorney Steve O’Day received the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s River Guardian Award on September 21 at a VIP reception. Mr. O’Day was honored for his many precedent-setting legal cases that have improved the environmental protection of Georgia’s rivers.
Past award recipients include Ted Turner, Mayor Shirley Franklin, Cox Enterprises CEO James Kennedy, Waterkeeper Alliance President Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Lt. Governor Pierre Howard, and Roy Richards, Jr.
Mr. O’Day’s precedent-setting cases include a ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court in November 2004 invalidating a permit for Gwinnett County to discharge 40 million gallons a day of treated sewage into Lake Lanier, because the permit allowed higher pollution levels than were technically feasible; a March 2006 ruling from the Georgia Supreme Court upholding a county’s discretion in finding that a proposed massive landfill was not permissible because it was inconsistent with the county’s solid waste management plan; and a February 2006 ruling by an Administrative Law Judge invalidating a Coastal Marshlands Act permit for a massive marina across from Cumberland Island, because of the impact on endangered species such as right whales and manatees, and because of stormwater runoff pollution in the marshes. Mr. O’Day also represented environmental groups in several cases in the 1990s that forced the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to implement effective controls over stormwater runoff from construction sites, including pollution limits and monitoring.
Other award recipients that were honored include Senator Seth Harp who received the River Legislator Award; Pete Frost who is Director of the Douglasville-Douglas County Water & Sewer Authority and received the River Steward Award; and Mildred Burdette who has been instrumental in promoting exceptional water quality in her community, received the River Neighbor Award. Awards are given to individuals who have made it their mission to protect the Chattahoochee River.
Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (UCR) began in 1994 and is northern Georgia’s leading environmental advocacy organization. Its mission is protecting the Chattahoochee River and northern Georgia’s drinking water. UCR was the 11th licensed program in the international Waterkeeper Alliance, which now includes more than 155 organizations.
Mr. O’Day is the partner in charge of SGR’s Environmental Law section. Mr. O’Day has been heavily involved in environmental litigation, consultation and negotiations during his more than 25 years of practice. He has advised clients in connection with the full range of environmental legislation and common law issues, including National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits and Clean Water Act compliance, Clean Air Act permits and compliance, Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act permitting and compliance and Toxic Substances Control Act compliance. He has also advised on right to know legislation under OSHA and the Superfund Amendment and Reauthorization Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act permitting and compliance including solid and hazardous waste treatment, disposal and cleanups, Superfund cleanups, toxic tort claims and other environmental matters. He has participated in administrative proceedings on state and federal levels in connection with issues ranging from usage of real property to compliance with federal and state environmental laws. He serves on the Board of the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Fund, and was a founding Board member and continues to serve on the Board of the Southern Environmental Law Center.
In addition to receiving the River Guardian Award, Mr. O’Day has also been named as a Georgia Super Lawyer in environmental law since the inception of the list, as a leading American lawyer for business in environmental law by Chamber USA and as Best Environmental Lawyer in Corporate Counsel magazine.