Georgia

The Southern Environmental Law Center’s approach is rooted in local presence, place-based action, and a network of partners throughout our six Southern states along with coordinated legal and communications expertise. By successfully tackling complex environmental issues and powerful opponents in our region over 35 years, SELC has consistently delivered nationally significant results and earned a reputation as one of the most effective nonprofits in the U.S. Our Georgia team is dedicated to state-based work and championing communities and natural resources from the North Georgia Mountains to the Piedmont to the coast—while simultaneously seeking to raise the bar for environmental standards and enforcement for the entire nation, with particular focus on limiting climate change and addressing environmental injustices.

Holding the line for the Okefenokee

Thanks to strong leadership from Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced in June the restoration of long-standing Clean Water Act protections for nearly 600 acres of wetlands threatened by a titanium mine proposed on the doorstep of Georgia’s majestic Okefenokee Swamp. SELC worked with Senator Ossoff, other decision-makers in Washington, and a host of local, state, and national partners to secure this key victory. Twin Pines Minerals’ proposal, which would threaten the integrity of one of the largest remaining intact freshwater ecosystems in the world, has never made sense. But a reckless Trump-era policy left these critical wetlands unprotected and risked degrading the Okefenokee. SELC led the way in challenging the Trump administration’s gutting of water protections in federal court, and the threat these rollbacks presented to the Okefenokee has been one of our most powerful examples, drawing attention from the public and elected officials alike. If Twin Pines requests a federal permit for its irresponsible project, we will respond with the other 41 members of the Okefenokee Protection Alliance to ensure lasting protections for this unique resource.

Stopping environmental injustices

SELC won an injunction halting 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 local solid waste plan to push this noisy, dust-generating facility forward and is now trying to illegally continue operations. On behalf of Citizens for a Healthy and Safe Environment, SELC filed a motion to hold these bad neighbors in contempt of court for violating the injunction, which is pending. We were also involved in an investigation into two scrap metal recycling facilities operated by TAV Holdings in the Glenrose Heights neighborhood in southwest Atlanta. The facilities, one of which sits next to a middle school, polluted nearby streams for years, causing alarmingly high levels of heavy metals in the community’s water. SELC’s investigation and coordination with partner groups contributed to EPA’s recent order to shut down one facility while TAV cleans up the polluted areas. We will continue to coordinate with partners and EPA to ensure a full cleanup of both facilities. 

Championing Georgia’s national forests

SELC secured protections for Cooper Creek, a section of the Chattahoochee National Forest near Blairsville. After years of work to keep the Forest Service from reneging on its obligations to protect undeveloped areas, the agency agreed to a settlement that will prevent any future commercial log-ging at Cooper Creek. A testament to SELC’s staying power, this win sends a message to the Forest Service that we are serious about holding it accountable to the commitments it makes in its forest management plans.

Solutions start in Georgia.

Nonprofit and nonpartisan, we are the Southern Environmental Law Center. The South’s largest and most effective environmental defender.

Addressing Georgia power’s coal ash pollution

Thanks to SELC and our partners, utilities across the South are now cleaning up over 270 million tons of coal ash. However, state environmental regulators in Georgia have proposed to allow a number of Georgia Power’s toxic leaking pits to remain in place and let them continue polluting groundwater at several sites. In a significant move, EPA has recently confirmed our arguments, making it clear that utilities cannot leave coal ash sitting in groundwater. SELC will continue to play its central role in applying pressure to Georgia Power and the state so that full cleanup occurs. 

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. Other federal agencies, including the National Park Service, have raised similar concerns with the Federal Aviation Administration’s failure to consider the project’s environmental impacts. The FAA issued its legally flawed launch license in late 2021. We are now evaluating the license and considering further actions to ensure the law is followed. In addition, citizens of Camden County recently voted overwhelmingly to oppose purchasing a contaminated plot of land for the spaceport in a referendum. 

Clean energy for Georgia

SELC is working to clear the path for a more equitable and cleaner energy future for Georgians. We continue bringing our legal expertise to bear before the state’s Public Service Commission. 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. 

Solutions for a healthy environment start in Georgia. Your support helps make our wins possible.

Keeping sewage out of the Chattahoochee

SELC won an important victory protecting the Chattahoochee River as it runs through Columbus. When the rain pours, raw sewage often overflows into the river, a clean water resource and 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 are now defending the city’s appeal of this ruling. 

Preventing dredging during nesting season

SELC won an important victory in 2021 to protect threatened loggerhead turtles and coastal wildlife in Brunswick from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ attempt to change long-standing best practices in port dredging. For decades, the Corps avoided dredging in biologically-active spring and summer seasons to help protect endangered and threatened sea turtles from powerful hopper dredges, which maim and kill wildlife. When the agency abruptly reversed course by pursuing year-round dredging in Brunswick, SELC immediately went to court and won a preliminary injunction, stopping the agency in its tracks.