Greatest Hits



SELC is celebrating 30 years of impressive results. Join us as we move into the next 30 years of protecting the South’s air, water, and special places through the power of the law.

© Amy Benoit

1. Cleaning up 53 million tons of coal ash

SELC is realizing the largest clean-up of industrial pollution in the Southeast, ever. To date, we have secured sweeping agreements to safely store coal ash in South Carolina. We have compelled Duke Energy to clean up 7 of its 14 sites in North Carolina–and have active enforcement suits aimed at the rest. At our prompting, the state of Tennessee filed suit for clean water violations at TVA’s Gallatin plant–and is requiring a statewide review of TVA’s coal ash sites. SELC is now engaged in litigation to clean up three coal ash sites in Virginia.

© Robert Llewellyn

2. No offshore drilling in VA, NC, SC, and GA

When the Obama Administration proposed to open our offshore waters to oil and gas leasing, SELC mounted a regionwide initiative. Our attorneys marshalled a persuasive case for opposition, coupled with a high-visibility outreach campaign in collaboration with multiple partner groups. More than 100 municipalities up and down the coast passed anti-drilling resolutions. Businesses, trade associations, and elected officials from both parties joined in. Together, we practically achieved the impossible: our four South Atlantic states were excluded.

3. A brighter future for solar in the South

Solar power holds vast promise as a clean and abundant energy source. SELC’s solar initiative seeks to remove disincentives and regulatory roadblocks and to promote new solar programs in our six states— and it’s yielding breakthroughs. In Georgia, we fought off a punitive tax that could have crippled the budding solar industry. SELC has helped, South Carolina leapfrog from laggard to leader in solar power by championing a new law that could ramp up production and widen access, and by forging a ten-year “net metering” deal with state utilities that lets solar customers receive full retail credit for any power they provide to the grid.

4. Not a single roadless acre lost

In 2013, we and our partners celebrated the permanent safeguarding of 700,000+ acres under the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. It took 14 years to secure this federal protection, and throughout SELC defended these key areas from logging, road building, or other destruction; not a single southern roadless acre was lost. , SELC continues to help shape the future of our 5 million acres of Southern Appalachian national forests, a precious heritage.

© Robert Llewellyn

5. Moving the South away from over dependence on coal

SELC is moving the South away from its over-reliance on the dirtiest of fossil fuels. Since 2010 we and our partners have secured plans or legally binding commitments to retire a third of the southeastern coal generating capacity. Our clean energy team has helped stop new coal-fired power plants too; since 2005, we have succeeded in blocking or shelving plans to construct seven new coal-burning units in our six states.

© Ron Sherman

6. Challenging sprawl-inducing highways

As a judge stated in one of our cases, no activity has a greater impact on how we affect the environment than decisions on where to build roads. To keep valuable landscapes intact, protect air quality, and better coordinate transportation and land use decisions, SELC has successfully challenged dozens of ill-conceived road projects, including the 210-mile Atlanta Outer Perimeter

© Robert Llewellyn

7. A unanimous Supreme Court decision for clean air

In April 2007, all nine U.S. Supreme Court justices agreed with us that power companies could no longer continue to extend the lives of old, coal-burning power plants in ways that increase yearly emissions without installing modern pollution controls. The ruling was instrumental in the largest power plant cleanup in history. This case took more than seven years of sustained effort by SELC.

8. Closing the worst wetland loopholes

The settlement of our East Dismal Swamp case closed a Clean Water Act loophole that had allowed developers to ditch, drain, and convert tens of thousands of acres of native wetlands to monoculture pine tree plantations. This single SELC lawsuit brought eight million acres of the highest-quality southern wetlands under the umbrella of federal law for the first time—at a cost of five cents per acre.

© Brooke

9. Saving special places

The heart of SELC’s mission is protecting one-of-a-kind sites of particular beauty or exceptional wildlife, historic, or natural value. For instance, our legal team won three separate court rulings against the U.S. Navy, then ultimately removed congressional funding for a massive fighter-jet training facility on North Carolina’s Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula–the largest over-wintering habitat for tundra swans and snow geese on the Atlantic coast. In the same area, we are defending the only population of red wolves living in the wild.