As the South experiences extreme heat and increased flooding, there is no question we are at a critical time for our environmental future. We have the opportunity to protect our remarkable natural resources and to help turn the tide on climate change. SELC was built for this.
Rooted in the South, we use strong legal and policy work, strategic vision, and pragmatic problem solving in all three branches and at all levels of government. When one door is closed, we find another way. With our commitment to place, SELC is building on 37 years of success in Alabama and five other Southern states and driving results that resonate across the nation. That’s why we say, “Solutions Start in the South.”
Now is the time to act. Join us.
Addressing coal ash pollution at Plant Barry
Thanks to SELC and our partners, utilities across the South are now digging up 275 million tons of coal ash in unlined pits and moving it away from rivers to lined landfills. However, Alabama Power remains an outlier, insisting on minimizing its own costs by capping leaking pits in place and letting them continue polluting our water. These toxic, open dumps are a disaster waiting to happen for local economies and natural resources, like in the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, which surrounds Plant Barry, where over 21 million tons of ash is sitting in and polluting groundwater upstream from Mobile Bay. We are now taking innovative legal action on behalf of Mobile Baykeeper to declare Alabama Power’s closure plan illegal and force the utility to move its ash and clean up its mess. SELC is also representing our Alabama partners in supporting the Environmental Protection Agency to force coal ash cleanups nationwide.
Cleaning up toxic pollution at Maxine Mine
Pollution from inactive coal mines threatens Alabama’s rivers, streams, and communities with discharge of harmful contaminants—like acid mine drainage—into waterways. Using strong scientific evidence and legal arguments, SELC and partners recently secured two precedent-setting federal court rulings against Drummond Coal, whose abandoned Maxine Mine was found in violation of the Clean Water Act. These two rulings paved the way for a comprehensive cleanup of the Maxine Mine site to stop the flow of pollution into the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River. Our settlement with Drummond will formalize a remarkable victory against a powerful, well-funded company that is used to getting its way in Alabama.
Unjust burdens of pollution in North Birmingham
Two of the 14 active U.S. coking plants sit two miles apart in majority Black neighborhoods in suburban Birmingham. Both have long, terrible records of air pollution violations which cause a variety of health issues in the fence-line communities nearby. Last year, the county’s health department refused to reissue the air permit for Bluestone Coke, a longtime violator of the Clean Air Act. Bluestone has since shut down operations, and the plant will not be able to reopen without extensive reconstruction. SELC, on behalf of GASP, has intervened in an enforcement case against the plant, and we are ensuring that the operators will be adequately penalized financially and will be required to implement extensive air monitoring to protect the community, if the plant is allowed to reopen. This victory is on the heels of a settlement SELC and GASP reached with EPA, the health department, and Drummond Coal after 10 years of dangerous benzene leakage went unaddressed at the ABC coke plant. The agreement requires a robust monitoring program and legally compels the company to fix all leaks.
Solutions start in Alabama.
Nonprofit and nonpartisan, we are the Southern Environmental Law Center. The South’s largest and most effective environmental defender and protector.
Protecting clean water in Alabama
SELC is taking on industrial toxin pollution in the South. Weiss Lake is a destination for anglers that attracts over a quarter of a million visitors annually and an important drinking water source for northeast Alabama, including the cities of Centre and Gadsden. Georgia’s Coosa and Chattooga rivers, which flow into Weiss Lake, run alongside carpet and textile plants, many of which are known to pollute nearby waters with dangerous “forever chemicals” known as PFAS. A textile mill in Trion is sending its PFAS-laden wastewater to the town’s treatment plant, which is unequipped to remove these chemicals before discharging them into the Chattooga. With drinking water quality and a local economy under threat, SELC notified the textile mill and wastewater treatment plant of our intent to sue to enforce federal and state laws, seeking to cease the ongoing discharges of these forever chemicals to Georgia’s waterways, which are likewise impacting downstream communities in Alabama.
Removing barriers for solar power
SELC is pressing hard to get solar power on track in one of the sunniest states in our nation. Rooftop solar is on the rise in the South, but Alabama is lagging far behind in this resource that saves residents money because the state’s largest utility hits customers who want to go solar with punitive, unjust fees. Alabama Power’s monthly charge has limited the rights of homeowners and businesses to use solar power on their properties to generate clean energy and lower their electric bills by significantly reducing customers’ expected savings, making it impractical to invest in solar power systems. After state regulators doubled down on their support for this regressive policy, SELC and partner groups went to federal court to challenge the Alabama Public Service Commission’s approval of this tax on clean energy.
Solutions for a healthy environment start in Alabama. Your support helps make our wins possible.
Working to jumpstart a transition to clean energy
SELC continues to push back as Alabama Power pursues more “natural gas,” an expensive and volatile fuel source that will lock the state into fossil fuels for decades and slow the expansion of renewable energy. After SELC engaged in a hard-fought battle in court, the utility was unfortunately granted a $1.1 billion gas expansion, forcing captive customers to pay for the unneeded infrastructure for decades. SELC and partners will continue to fight for the utility to put the brakes on gas while pushing for a pivot to solar and clean energy in the state.
In Colbert County, SELC and our partners are questioning Tennessee Valley Authority plans to build three new gas-fired turbines in Colbert County. As the largest federal utility and the third-largest producer of electricity in the nation, TVA plays an outsized role in shaping the nation’s response to climate change. The utility wants to replace the Colbert coal plant with another fossil fuel, ignoring clean energy alternatives and continuing to place the burden of this pollution on the surrounding communities. We are pushing back, highlighting that the federal utility’s plans to site these polluting facilities in these neighborhoods directly conflict with the Biden administration’s zero-carbon and environmental justice goals.
Restoring core federal protections
For years, SELC stood strong against an unprecedented assault on our nation’s core environmental protections from Washington, D.C. We are now poised to hold the federal government accountable as it seeks to restore safeguards under the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and other critical laws. We are leading regional and national advocacy campaigns, speaking up for Southern resources, and using our unmatched expertise to help guide the restoration and strengthening of federal standards.