As the South experiences extreme heat and increased flooding, there is no question we are at a critical time for our environmental future. We have the opportunity to protect our remarkable natural resources and to help turn the tide on climate change. SELC was built for this.
Rooted in the South, we use strong legal and policy work, strategic vision, and pragmatic problem solving in all three branches and at all levels of government. When one door is closed, we find another way. With our commitment to place, SELC is building on 37 years of success in Georgia and five other Southern states and driving results that resonate across the nation. That’s why we say, “Solutions Start in the South.”
Now is the time to act. Join us.
Holding the line for the Okefenokee
For three years, SELC has led the fight to stop a proposed titanium mine that would harm the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, one of the largest intact freshwater ecosystems in North America. Following expansive Trump-era rollbacks in clean water protections, SELC is continuing to work in the courts, with federal agencies, and on Capitol Hill to restore federal Clean Water Act protections to the proposed mine site. SELC is also working with state agencies and legislators to oppose the required state permits and secure long-term protections for the Okefenokee to ensure it remains one of the most pristine and biodiverse places in America.
Stopping environmental injustices
SELC has halted operations at the Metro Green construction and demolition waste recycling facility next door to predominantly Black neighborhoods in Stonecrest and DeKalb County. Metro Green initially circumvented the county’s solid waste plan to push this noisy, dust-generating facility forward and tried to illegally continue operations. SELC joined the case on behalf of Citizens for a Healthy and Safe Environment and won a preliminary injunction against further operation. In July 2022, the court ruled that Metro Green should have never been allowed to build this facility, and Georgia’s environmental agency now must consider whether to revoke its solid waste permit. SELC is poised to push back if Metro Green or the state tries to appeal this decision in court.
Meanwhile, in Adel, SELC continues to work with community leaders and partners to oppose two new proposed biomass pellet mills. We have appealed the permit for one of the facilities and are investigating the environmental justice implications of these proposals, including a possible Title VI complaint with EPA under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Finally, in Hancock County, SELC attorneys provided technical expertise and coordinated closely with local partners and residents to encourage the county commission to amend its zoning policy after commissioners unanimously denied permits for a harmful new 500-acre granite quarry last year. The new ordinance gives the commission greater discretion to deny future projects that harm local communities. We hope it will serve as a model for other jurisdictions to adopt similar policies throughout the South.
Solutions start in Georgia.
Nonprofit and nonpartisan, we are the Southern Environmental Law Center. The South’s largest and most effective environmental defender.
Defending Georgia’s coast from risky rockets
SELC is opposing Spaceport Camden, a proposed 11,000-acre rocket launch facility in Camden County that would bring light and noise pollution, water contamination, wildfire risk, and access restrictions on Cumberland Island National Seashore. Federal agencies, including the National Park Service, have raised concerns with the Federal Aviation Administration’s failure to properly consider the project’s environmental impacts. Nevertheless, the FAA issued its legally flawed launch license, and in late 2021, we challenged it in federal court. In addition, citizens of Camden County voted overwhelmingly to oppose purchasing a contaminated plot of land for the spaceport, a move which Camden County is seeking to invalidate in court. SELC will continue to fight on all fronts to protect Cumberland Island from this inappropriate and harmful development.
Clean energy for Georgia
SELC is bringing our legal expertise to bear before the state’s Public Service Commission to clear the path for a more equitable and cleaner energy future for Georgians. Hearings throughout 2022 provide significant opportunities for SELC and our partners to push Georgia Power to replace its retiring coal units with more renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. In 2019, we laid the groundwork to ensure fair returns for up to 5,000 Georgia Power customers with rooftop solar installations. We are now advocating for the removal of that cap and for other policies that make solar affordable and accessible for all Georgians.
Keeping sewage out of the Chattahoochee
SELC won an important victory protecting the Chattahoochee River as it runs through Columbus. During heavy rains, raw sewage often overflows into the river, a nationally-renowned whitewater rafting destination. The state issued a strong wastewater permit that addresses this problem, but the city has challenged it. SELC stepped in on behalf of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, and the court ruled in our favor, affirming the permit against all of the city’s challenges. We defended the city’s appeal of this ruling in Muscogee County Superior Court and continue the fight in the Georgia Court of Appeals.
Solutions for a healthy environment start in Georgia. Your support helps make our wins possible.
Addressing Georgia Power’s coal ash pollution
For more than a decade, SELC has been the national leader working with local community groups to force major utilities to remove 275 million tons of toxic coal ash and protect clean water across the South. However, state environmental regulators have proposed to allow a number of Georgia Power’s leaking coal ash pits to remain in place and continue polluting groundwater at several sites. In a significant move, EPA recently confirmed our arguments, making it clear that federal rules prevent utilities from leaving coal ash sitting in groundwater. SELC will continue to play its central role pressing Georgia Power and the state to enact a full cleanup.
Protecting clean water in Georgia
Sampling by state and federal authorities in northwest Georgia has revealed troubling levels of soil and water contamination in the Chattooga River and downstream waters by so-called “forever chemicals,” also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. This spring, SELC notified a wastewater treatment plant and a textile mill of our intent to sue to enforce federal and state laws, asking the court to cease the ongoing discharges of these forever chemicals to Georgia’s waterways and protect downstream communities.