Solutions start in Georgia
SELC is one of the most effective environmental organizations in the South. For 37 years, our place-based approach has made us the fiercest watchdog for our region’s natural treasures and rich biodiversity. Because of this impressive track record, SELC can steer national policy on clean energy, clean water, public lands, and more. Today, we are accepting the mantle of transforming our region’s impact on climate change and addressing a history of environmental injustice. Largely thanks to SELC and our partners, we are making room for clean energy in Georgia, protecting our precious natural areas, and helping ensure clean water and clean air for all, from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the barrier islands.
Holding the line for the Okefenokee
The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, home to one of North America’s largest complexes of freshwater wetlands, has come under threat from a Twin Pines Minerals plan to mine titanium on 8,000 acres adjacent to the swamp. SELC assembled 43 groups to oppose the mine and helped secure over 100,000 public comments in response to federal and state permit applications. After Twin Pines took advantage of a 2020 federal rule to strip almost 400 acres of wetlands of their Clean Water Act protections, an Arizona federal court recently found the 2020 rule unlawful. As we work to restore these protections, we are also pressing Georgia’s environmental agency to do the right thing and deny five state environmental permits for the mine.
Stopping an environmental injustice
SELC won a preliminary injunction halting operations at the Metro Green concrete recycling facility next door to predominantly Black neighborhoods in Stonecrest and Dekalb County. Metro Green rushed this noisy, dusty facility forward in violation of the local solid waste plan and without notifying community residents, and Stonecrest filed suit against the company and the state. After SELC joined this case on behalf of Citizens for a Healthy and Safe Environment, the court accepted our request to shut down the plant while the judge untangles Metro Green’s attempt to ignore the county’s solid waste plan, which specifically seeks to prevent new facilities in this already overburdened part of Dekalb County.
Defending our coasts from risky rockets
SELC is opposing Spaceport Camden, a proposed 11,000-acre rocket launch facility that would bring light and noise pollution, water contamination, wildfire risk, and access restrictions on Cumberland Island National Seashore. We are raising objections in coordination with multiple federal agencies, including the National Park Service, as the Federal Aviation Administration has failed to consider environmental impacts. The FAA plans to complete its environmental review this fall. If inadequate, SELC will evaluate whether further steps are required to enforce the law.
Preventing dredging during nesting season
SELC went to court and won an important victory to protect threatened loggerhead turtles and other coastal wildlife in Brunswick from a federal agency’s irresponsible attempt to change best practices in port dredging. For decades, the Corps of Engineers 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 reversed course by allowing year-round dredging in Brunswick, SELC immediately went to court and won a preliminary injunction, stopping the agency in its tracks. We are keeping an eye on follow-up studies and will take necessary steps to oppose further attempts to dredge at inappropriate times.
Clean energy for Georgia
SELC is working to clear the path for a more equitable and cleaner energy future for Georgians. We are persistently bringing our legal expertise to bear in strategic hearings before the state’s Public Service Commission. This work has spurred historic growth in large utility solar farms, laid the groundwork for more rooftop installations, and initiated the first advances in energy-saving efficiency programs in many years. We are working to shore up and broaden these advances, level the playing field for independent solar producers, and fight for fair treatment for customers that install solar on their roofs.
Restoring core federal protections
For four years, SELC stood strong against an unprecedented assault on our nation’s environmental protections. The Biden administration has promised to restore safeguards under the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and other critical laws. But with endless problems and competing priorities in D.C., it is up to us to keep our leaders on track and to protect vulnerable Southern resources on the ground while we help ensure the restoration of stronger federal standards.
Keeping sewage out of the Chattahoochee
SELC recently won an important victory protecting the Chattahoochee River as it flows through Columbus. When the rain pours, the city’s raw sewage often overflows into the river, a popular whitewater rafting destination and clean water resource. The state recently issued a new wastewater permit that would address this problem, but the city challenged it. SELC stepped in on behalf of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper to make sure Columbus does the right thing to protect its drinking water and tourism industry. In September, the court ruled in our favor, affirming the permit against all the city’s challenges, and we are ready to defend this ruling on appeal if necessary.
Latest chapter of tri-state water wars comes to an end
A federal judge just rejected Florida’s latest challenge to Georgia’s water use in the ongoing tri-state water wars. Metro Atlanta sprawls across the tops of multiple river systems that run into neighboring Alabama and Florida, and the states have fought for decades over how to manage the quantity and quality of water from these shared rivers. SELC is working with groups in Georgia and Alabama to keep the vitality of these river systems front and center as residential and commercial pressures build to overwhelm them.