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Environmental Justice
People of color and low-income Americans often suffer disproportionately from the effects of toxic pollution.  In the last twenty years, significant evidence has emerged relating to the placement of landfills, truck depots, and incinerators in low-income neighborhoods; the disproportionate impact of air pollution on inner-city urban residents; and the high incidence of lead poisoning in Latino and African-American children. GreenLaw works to make the application and enforcement of Georgia’s environmental laws protect all Georgians equally.

Quick Links

  • A Citizen’s Guide to Environmental Protection and Justice in Georgia: Download Handbook
  • Report: Health & Environmental Life Impacts in the Newtown Community in Gainesville, Georgia.  View report


Bringing Justice To Georgia's Communities

GreenLaw provides solutions to environmentally-at-risk communities with education, strategic planning and legal resources.  In fact, GreenLaw is the only legal organization in Georgia whose mission is to provide low income, minority and otherwise disadvantaged communities free legal services to reduce unlawful pollution.  GreenLaw's environmental justice work spans the state including over a decade of experience working with the Newtown Florists Club in Gainesville, challenging two massive coal plants proposed for impoverished African American communities, and staving off a massive landfill that had been proposed for Taliaferro County.  
 
GreenLaw works with neighborhood organizations, policy leaders, citizens and others and provides trainings, one-on-one consultations, educational resources, assistance working with regulatory agencies and more.  When all else fails, GreenLaw also provides direct legal representation to remedy the most egregious problems.

With this aim in mind, GreenLaw has worked to provide high quality legal services to under-represented communities. 


GreenLaw's Environmental Jusice Efforts Have:

  • Provided data that encouraged Fulton County commissioners to pass an Environmental Justice Zoning amendment that will require additional scrutiny of new businesses seeking pollution permits near environmentally-stressed residential communities. More info.
  • Intervened in a federal lawsuit to clean up DeKalb's polluted waterways.  More info
  • Helped produce a report on the health, environmental and quality of life impacts in the Newtown Community in Gainesville, Georgia.  View report
  • Filed a lawsuit objecting to the EPD permit issued to build a coal-fired power plant in Early County, a low income county with the 11th highest air pollution emissions in the state.  More Info  
  • Secured an order from the Environmental Protection Division requiring Land O’ Lakes-Purina Feed mill to stop emitting illegal levels of grain dust over the Newtown community in Gainesville.  More Info
  • Stopped diesel trucks from idling continuously just yards from residences in the Newtown community in Gainesville.   
  • Educated citizens at public forums regarding their rights in preventing toxic pollution in their communities.     
  • Evaluated a landfill proposal to ensure compliance with state and local solid waste management regulations and to ensure compliance with local zoning regulations. 
  • Successfully challenged an air quality permit amendment submitted by Cargill in the Newtown community of Gainesville. As originally proposed, the permit amendment would have allowed a significant increase of SO2 emissions while allowing the company to avoid public participation requirements. Additionally, in light of GreenLaw’s opposition to the amendment, EPD requested a Toxic Impact Assessment before approving the facility’s use of landfill gas as fuel.
  • Prevented a regional landfill from being built in Taliaferro (pronounced “Toliver”) County that would have spanned almost 1000-acres located in sensitive wetland areas in close proximity to the Ogeechee River.  More info
  • Secured an order to close Waste Management’s Live Oak landfill in South DeKalb County – the largest landfill in Georgia and one of the top 10 largest in the nation.      
  • Assisted county officials across Georgia to enact local land use ordinances that are protective of public health and the environment.      
  • Prepared a model landfill ordinance to assist county officials in developing responsible solid waste management practices.
  • Prepared a model assessment of toxic sites in the Ogeechee River Basin in rural Georgia, which will be used to assist citizens in other river basins in Georgia.
  • Submitted an amicus brief on behalf of local citizens in Meriwether County in support of the constitutionality of a local land-use ordinance that protects critical drinking water supplies. 
  • Drafted the environmental justice statement for the 2007 Report issued by the Georgia Air Coalition.      
  • Worked with local groups and Global Community Monitor to organize the 2007 National Bucket Brigade Conference in Atlanta, “Community Environmental Monitoring and Empowerment, A Community Monitoring Fair and Training,” featuring speaker Dr. Robert Bullard.


Environmental Injustice In Georgia

While all have a right to live in a clean and healthy environment, the truth is that many do not have equal access to clean air, water, and land.  Those without access to these fundamental resources are disproportionately minority and low-income communities.  The statistics are staggering: Hispanics are more than twice as likely as whites to live in areas where there are high levels of particulate matter (small airborne particles that can cause severe respiratory problems); African Americans are more likely than whites to be located close to dirty coal-fired power plants; African American children are five times more likely than white children to die from asthma (which can be triggered by poor air quality), and are five times more likely than white children to have lead poisoning; three out of five African and Latino Americans live in communities with abandoned toxic waste sites.
 
Statistics show that poorer Americans simply do not breathe the same air as those more affluent—forty-six percent of housing units for the poor sit within a mile of factories that reported toxic emissions to the Environmental Protection Agency.  These communities are surrounded disproportionately by polluting facilities, meaning that not only is the air and water quality worse, but so is the quality of life.  Polluting facilities do not just sit in isolation—they often carry with them the traffic of noisy, noxious trucks.  Further, many facilities that people deem desirable in society, such as recycling centers and public transportation depots, emit some of the worst pollutants and are almost always located in poor neighborhoods and communities of color.
 
The hardest hit in these communities are the elderly and young children.  For example, impoverished children typically live in low income housing and attend older schools, which increases exposure to lead paint and pesticides used to control infestations; parents often are forced to work dirty, undesirable jobs which increases “take home” exposure of pollutants; and many suffer from malnutrition, which renders the body less able to combat environmental forces.  Compounding these problems is the fact that many of the communities that are overburdened with pollution are home to residents who are less likely to be insured, and thus have less access to adequate healthcare.  Declining property values and failing businesses illustrate that there are also economic consequences to living near a disproportionate amount of pollution and waste.

While certain communities are overburdened with pollution, waste, and the associated health problems, these same communities also face seemingly insurmountable burdens in addressing these issues.  The resources that are needed to ensure that the laws are enforced are often out of reach to many of the communities most burdened by environmental and health problems. 

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Environmental Justice
Citizens march against a proposed landfill in Taliaferro County. GreenLaw helped citizens defeat this proposal.
Environmental Justice-2
Citizens raise money to pay for legal counsel - but are unable to raise sufficient funds. GreenLaw provides the community its services for free.
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