Under the Obama Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is leading efforts to incorporate environmental justice measures into its inner-workings. So, too, are numerous other federal agencies. These efforts, however, have little practical effect at the state level where sources of pollution, such as coal-fired power plants and other industrial facilities are granted permits to pollute. Under the cooperative federalism framework that exists today, the federal government cannot directly compel states to consider environmental justice unless such action is required by federal law. Thus, federal guidance pertaining to environmental justice will do little to prevent the pattern of siting pollution sources in low-income and minority communities in Georgia—one of only a few states that have not independently adopted environmental justice measures.

This article summarizes environmental justice efforts at the national level and in Georgia. It also explores the relationship between federal environmental justice policies and the absence of such policies from Georgia’s delegated environmental programs. This article then provides recommendations for indirect action to be taken by the federal government to encourage Georgia to incorporate environmental justice into permit decision-making.