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Environmental Justice Bill

Ensuring all Georgians have access to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Environmental Justice (EJ) is a concept and movement that emphasizes the fair and equal treatment of all people, regardless of their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic level, or other characteristics, in the creation, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, rules, and policies. Environmental justice aims to confront and correct environmental injustices and inequality that disproportionately affect underserved groups. It fights for making sure that everyone, wherever they reside, is given the same level of protection from environmental and health risks as well as an equal chance to participate in environmental decision-making.

Contact your legislator to voice your support.

Need for an EJ Law in Georgia

Empowerment of Marginalized Communities: An EJ bill can give historically marginalized communities the ability to participate in discussions on environmental and local development issues, ensuring that their views are heard and that their concerns are taken into account.

Legal Protections: Enacting an EJ bill can offer a framework for resolving environmental injustices, making it simpler to challenge and correct circumstances where at-risk groups suffer disproportionately from pollution and other environmental risks.

EJ legislation frequently focuses on enhancing health equality by lowering exposure to dangerous pollutants, which can improve health outcomes for all inhabitants, regardless of their background.

Environmental Sustainability: By encouraging cleaner and more environmentally friendly practices in impacted communities, EJ policies can support sustainable development.

Get Involved

Use the form below to express your interest in staying involved with this movement!

Resources

Proposed EJ policies and bills in Georgia

Definitions

The idea and movement known as environmental justice (EJ) aims to ensure that all people, regardless of their color, income level, or history, have an equal right to a clean and healthy environment and that the benefits and costs of the environment are divided equally.

Environmental Racism -The practice of situating environmentally hazardous activities, such as trash disposal facilities or polluting industries, in or close to neighborhoods mostly inhabited by people of color, which frequently results in these communities bearing an excessive amount of the environmental burden.

Environmental injustices- Disparities in environmental conditions or access to resources that disproportionately affect marginalized or disadvantaged people and have a negative impact on their health and social well-being.

Eco-apartheid- Refers to the division of society along environmental lines, in which marginalized communities face pollution and lack of access while communities with greater economic and political clout enjoy cleaner surroundings and resources.

Disproportionate Impacts: Describes the uneven effects of environmental risks on particular communities or groups, frequently as a result of socioeconomic inequalities or institutionalized discrimination.

Environmental equity- Ensuring that everyone has equal access to environmental benefits including clean air, water, and green areas

Cumulative Impact- When several environmental stressors combine to affect a community, it can exacerbate the load already placed on it by additional socioeconomic difficulties.

Toxic Tour: Led by community activists, these guided tours highlight environmental injustices and problems by visiting regions impacted by them.

Environmental Health Disparities:The degree to which particular populations or areas are more vulnerable than others to the harmful effects of environmental hazards as a result of things like poverty, resource scarcity, and a lack of political authority.

Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR)- is a research methodology that entails the active involvement of community members in the planning and execution of environmental justice-related research projects.

EJ Convening Summaries

September 26, 2023

On 9/26, GA Wand hosted a meeting at Pittsburgh Yards from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.  This meeting took place to bring discussion around an EJ Bill in Georgia.  Community members and leaders were invited to put together their goals and priorities when it came to this bill.  To start the conversation, speakers came to discuss the environment in general and its effects on society specifically in Georgia.  

Teams were broken up by tables where they were given bills from other states and asked to look at them and decide what aspects they would like implemented in Georgia’s environmental bill.  A list was written on sheets of paper on the wall and members voted on their top 5.  These top 5 priorities ended up being the following: Data transparency & ownership, prioritizing children’s health, local community members to be appointed to EJ advisory board, equitable enforcement of law, rules and regulations we already have, and developer accountability: Make polluters accountable for the impact of their pollution on human health and environment.

October 26, 2023

On 10/26, GA Wand hosted a meeting at Pittsburgh Yards from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.  This meeting was to discuss the Georgia Environmental Justice Bill.  Multiple speakers came both in person and on Zoom to discuss the top 5 priorities that were decided at the previous convening on September 26th.  As a recap, these 5 priorities are the following: Data transparency & ownership, prioritizing children’s health, local community members to be appointed to EJ advisory board, equitable enforcement of law, rules and regulations we already have, and developer accountability: Make polluters accountable for the impact of their pollution on human health and environment.

To start the meeting, Amy Sharma, the Executive Director of Science 4 Georgia, discussed matching the 5 priorities with actual data.  Next, a pediatric doctor was invited to speak specifically about children and how they are affected by the environment.  She gave important recommendations that resulted in other attendees asking questions about if the children are involved themselves.  Dr. Yomi Noibi then discussed his efforts concerning legislative outreach among Georgia politicians.  Following this Andrea Jones highlighted ways that members are able to engage their communities by meeting with established organizations to further the convening’s mission.  Lastly, Ms. Alvarado closed the meeting with a “Take Action Now!”

November 30, 2023

On 11/30, GA Wand hosted the meeting on Zoom from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.  This meeting took place to further discuss the top five priorities and where the organization is looking forward to the EJ Bill.

Dr. Fatemen Shafiei opened the meeting (Professor at Spelman College and Director of Environmental Studies) to speak about the 5th National Climate Assessment on Human Health.  Dr. Shefiei is one of the authors of the assessment.  Specifically, it is used to analyze the impact of climate change on human health.  Dr. Shafiei emphasized understanding not just science, but social and political sciences surrounding circumstances.

Next, Andrea Jones recapped the goals surrounding EJ Bill.  To meet this goal, a focus must be placed on engaging the youth, college/university students, and Latinx communities.  Ashley Overton of Eco-Action spoke about engaging the youth through her organization’s summer internships.  Zakkiyyah Saleem (GA Wand Intern & student) then spoke on engaging colleges/universities by creating a working relationship with her Public Policy Club at GSU.  Engaging Latinx communities were then discussed by Jacelyne Soto of Mi Familia Vota. 

Following, Free provided an update on the 11/18 Harambee House visit in Savannah.  At this meeting the following five priority areas were discussed: Revisiting existing permit licensing requirements for excessive violators; including retroactive review, Community approval of re-establishing or creating new facilities, Public oversight of permitting and regulatory process, Public disclosure of appointees to EJ Advisory and/or Commission boards to ensure no conflict of interest in regards to policy, regulation, and enforcement processes, and Youth involvement on advisory boards.

Andrea Jones then gave a legislative outreach and policy update as well as set expectations for the potential bill.  In sum, passing the bill is not the end goal.  More work will need to occur to make sure that the bill stays updated and follows the goals that have been set.  

Looking ahead, the website has a “Get Involved Form” and if anyone is interested in leading a committee, let Andrea Jones know ([email protected]).

The next meeting will be in January, the exact date and time will be determined.

In the Press

Georgia has 15th worst life expectancy in the US

Oct 13, 2023 - Georgia is the worst state for healthcare in the nation

Further Reading & resources

Glenn Environmental Coalition, a community nonprofit organization committed to assuring a clean environment and healthy economy for citizens of coastal Georgia. This site has constantly updated current local news to raise awareness for environmental health.

A history of the Environmental Justice Movement in Georgia by Science for Georgia.

Environmental Justice Green Book.  1983, a government study found that race was the main factor in placing hazardous waste sites in the South, disproportionately affecting Black communities. Four decades later, the Turner Environmental Law Clinic has launched the Environmental Justice Green Book (EJGB), a website to help communities combat the continued placement of pollution sources in non-white areas. It provides legal and scientific information, step-by-step instructions, and an intuitive interface to find tailored solutions. The tool has garnered attention from environmental organizations across the U.S., and updates are planned annually. This project aligns with the clinic's goals of promoting environmental justice and providing legal training for students.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) has announced a new clean energy initiative in the Savannah area, targeting underserved Black communities. The initiative, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), will address the equitable electric mobility needs and priorities of underserved Black communities in Savannah, Atlanta, and Albany. The project aims to ensure that federal electric mobility investments meet the specific needs and desires of these communities. SACE's Electric Transportation Policy Director, Stan Cross, emphasized that the project's primary goal is to empower communities to make decisions about how federal funding is allocated to address their mobility needs. The knowledge gained from this initiative will be shared to promote the goals of the Justice40 initiative throughout the Southeast.

The Southface Institute, a Georgia-based sustainability nonprofit, has received a $5.87 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to support its High Impact Energy Efficiency Improvement (HIEEI) Portfolio. This program aims to offer financial and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations in the Southeast to enhance their energy efficiency. The grant is part of the DOE's Renewing America's Nonprofits grant program, which uses a "nonprofits-helping-nonprofits" approach to expand support for more organizations and projects.

The HIEEI Portfolio will specifically target nonprofits in Justice40 areas, aligning with the federal Justice40 Initiative's goal of directing at least 40% of overall benefits from certain federal investments to disadvantaged communities.

Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) - This is the official website for the Environmental Protection Division of GA with links to resources like forms and permits, contact info, related links, popular topics like coal ash, and more.

EPA Funding Announcements

The EPA has announced nearly $1.5 million in funding for two projects in Georgia aimed at advancing environmental justice as part of President Biden's Investing in America agenda. The Glynn Environmental Coalition and the City of Savannah were selected to receive funds through EPA's Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving Cooperative Agreement and Environmental Justice Government-to-Government programs. These funds will be used to provide disadvantaged communities, historically underserved and underinvested, with access to clean air, water, and climate resilience solutions, aligning with the Biden-Harris administration's Justice40 Initiative.

This funding, made possible by President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act (the largest climate investment in U.S. history), represents the largest investment ever announced under these EPA programs. It is the first in a series of environmental justice grant announcements to be made by the agency. The grants reflect President Biden's commitment to advancing equity and justice throughout the United States, particularly through the Justice40 initiative, which aims to provide 40% of the benefits of federal investments to disadvantaged communities burdened by pollution and underinvestment.

The two grant programs involved are:

  • The Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving (EJCPS) Program: providing financial assistance to eligible organizations addressing local environmental and public health issues; this program includes support for small nonprofit organizations, with several such organizations in Georgia receiving grants, including the Glynn Environmental Coalition.
  • The Environmental Justice Government-to-Government (EJG2G) Program: offering funding to government activities in partnership with community-based organizations to achieve measurable environmental or public health impacts in communities disproportionately affected by environmental harms. The City of Savannah is among the recipients of EJG2G funding.

These initiatives demonstrate the commitment to environmental justice, community collaboration, and improved access to clean air, clean water, and climate resilience. 

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