The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) were created in 1972 in a reorganization of state government. As of April 6, 1972, when Governor Jimmy Carter signed into law the Executive Reorganization Act, the State of Georgia reduced sixty-five budgeted and 200 unbudgeted agencies, boards, bureaus, and commissions into 20 line agencies. The objective was to group similar functions into a single jurisdictional body, thus saving money by avoiding duplication while improving the delivery of services.

Chapter 15, Section 1501 of the Executive Reorganization Act of 1972 created the DNR. Twenty-nine state departments, commissions, boards, associations and/or authorities were combined to form the Department. Section 1534 of the Act created the Division of EPD within the DNR.

As part of the reorganization, the Georgia Water Quality Control Board was abolished, and all of its functions were transferred to the newly created EPD. The former Executive Secretary of the Georgia Water Quality Control Board, Rock Howard, Jr., was appointed the Director of the EPD. The EPD, while under the DNR was assigned some autonomy from the other Divisions within the Department. Senate Bill 944, which amended the Executive Reorganization Act assigned the authority to issue all permits, orders, and related functions to administer environmental protection programs to the Director of EPD. EPD had responsibility for five major functions

  1. Water Quality Control Section which was formerly the Georgia Water Quality Control Board;
  2. Water Supply, which was formerly in the State Health Department;
  3. Air Quality Control, which was formerly in the State Health Department;
  4. Solid Waste Management Sections which were formerly in the State Health Department; and
  5. Land Reclamation Section which was formerly the Surface Mined Land Use Board.

The State reorganization allowed for greater cooperation, efficiency and utilization of manpower among the environmental protection sections and also provided for greater coordination with the USEPA.