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 nearly 40 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.”
Special Georgia challenge grant announcement
The Wilbur & Hilda Glenn Family Foundation has issued a $100,000 special challenge grant for new donors in Georgia inviting them to make a first-time gift to SELC. Thank you for making a special gift by the end of the year to help us meet our Georgia challenge and boost SELC’s powerful protection efforts.
Double your impact through our Georgia challenge grant.
Big wins for SELC in Georgia
SELC is leading environmental progress in Georgia. Earlier this year, Governor Kemp signed Senate Bill 115 into law, which explicitly affirms the rights of all Georgians to fish and paddle in our state’s navigable waterways. SELC was instrumental in drafting the language in cooperation with the Governor’s counsel, and the bill flew through the General Assembly on the last day of the 2023 session. Shortly after, we secured a major victory for Georgia’s sea turtles and other marine life in Brunswick harbor against unlawful dredging practices. We also notched a precedent-setting win in our campaign against PFAS pollution in northwest Georgia, working with the Coosa River Basin Initiative. On top of that, we reached a settlement over a long-running pollution problem stemming from a massive cattle farm that was impacting creeks and groundwater in the Flint River basin after multiple years of mediation on behalf of the Flint Riverkeeper. And we didn’t stop there — this year, SELC also thwarted the biomass industry’s attempt to add tire-burning to Georgia Power’s fuel mix. SELC generated a public spotlight on the issue through a strategic press campaign, and as a result of our efforts, the Public Service Commission reversed itself unanimously and voted to outlaw the practice. We’re building on these big wins to expand our scope of work in Georgia. Later this year, we will welcome Keri Powell, the leader of SELC’s new Air Program, to our Atlanta office.
Holding the line for the Okefenokee
For five years, SELC has led the fight to stop a proposed 8,000-acre titanium mine that would harm the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, one of the largest intact freshwater ecosystems in North America. SELC is working in the courts, with federal agencies, and on Capitol Hill to restore critical federal protections to the proposed mine site. We have collaborated with more than 60 partners to coordinate a robust public and expert response—with nearly 200,000 public comments submitted opposing the strip-mining plan Twin Pines delivered to state regulators. While the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Sackett v. EPA earlier this year drastically cut the scope of the Clean Water Act, including wetlands protections in Georgia, we are pressing forward on all fronts to preserve clean water for the Okefenokee.
Clean energy for Georgia
Over the past three years, SELC helped open the door to a more equitable and cleaner energy future for Georgians by persistently bringing our legal expertise to bear in strategic hearings before the state’s Public Service Commission. This work has spurred historic and precedent-setting growth in large utility solar farms, laid the groundwork for more rooftop solar installations, and initiated critical advances in energy-saving efficiency programs, including our recent victory at Plant Vogtle. On behalf of our clients, Georgia Interfaith Power & Light and Partnership for Southern Equity, we reached a settlement with Georgia Power and Public Service Commission staff about how to divide costs between Georgia ratepayers and Southern Company for the construction of the first new nuclear power plants in the US in over three decades. After applying relentless pressure on Georgia Power in the media and at the Public Service Commission, we secured a settlement with the company that will increase energy efficiency programs and provide relief to those most vulnerable to energy burden. While there remains more work to be done, this is a significant step forward for Georgia. We are fighting to preserve these advances in future proceedings.
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. 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 in a primarily Black neighborhood when Stonecrest had not engaged in solid waste management planning with input from residents. We continue to advocate for the facility’s closure after Metro Green and the state environmental agency appealed the court’s order.
In Adel, we reached a settlement with Spectrum Energy in December that sets a new standard for protecting communities from the impacts of wood pellet production. Spectrum is in the biomass energy business, producing wood pellets to burn in European power plants under misguided climate change policy. Producing electricity from forest biomass actually increases carbon in the atmosphere, while air pollution from pellet facilities disproportionately impacts communities of color. Our settlement in Adel comes after SELC and Concerned Citizens of Cook County filed a federal Title VI Civil Rights Act complaint, securing stronger protections for public health, ensuring greater public transparency, and setting limits on expansion if settlement terms are not met.
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
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 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.
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.
Double your impact through our Georgia challenge grant.
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. SELC will continue to fight on all fronts to protect Cumberland Island from this inappropriate and harmful development.
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. In 2022, SELC notified a wastewater treatment plant and a textile mill of our intent to sue to enforce federal and state laws, and will ask them to cease the ongoing discharges of these forever chemicals to Georgia’s waterways and protect downstream communities.