Environmental Justice serving Georgia's most at risk
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.
- GreenLaw's Environmental Justice Success
- Patterns of Pollution Report: Overview | View Report
- A Citizen’s Guide to Environmental Protection and Justice in Georgia: Download Handbook
- Environmental Justice Facts
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 minority and low income communities free legal services to reduce unlawful and disproportionate exposure to 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. We have also worked with the City of Atlanta Neighborhood Planning Units, and Lithonia residents combating a Biomass Facility.
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.
- 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.
- Intervened in a federal lawsuit to clean up DeKalb's polluted waterways. More info
- Educated citizens at public forums regarding their rights in preventing toxic pollution in their communities.
- Prevented a trash transfer station from operating in the Bankhead community.
- Helped to organize public participation during the EPA Carbon Regulations hearings.
- Conducted a health assessment along with GA State Master’s in Social Work Students of the community surrounding Ft. Gillem Army base, an area known to be exposed to a multitude of pollutants.
- Advocated for energy efficiency measures that benefit minority and low income Georgians.
- Educated the community on how climate change disproportionately affects Georgians most vulnerable citizens.
- Founded the GA EJ Alliance whose mission is to eliminate environmental injustices and health disparities for communities in Georgia by convening diverse change makers. To create and sustain the capacity to organize and mobilize communities to drive policy change.
- Drafted the Environment chapter for the Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas, the first of it’s on the East Coast.
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.