The Southern Environmental Law Center’s approach is rooted in local presence, place-based action, and a network of partners throughout our six Southern states along with coordinated legal, strategy, and communications expertise. By successfully tackling complex environmental issues and powerful opponents in our particular region over 35 years, SELC has consistently delivered nationally significant results and earned a reputation as one of the most effective nonprofits in the US. Our Alabama team is dedicated to state-based work and championing communities and natural resources from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and the Gulf Coast—while simultaneously seeking to use our local results to raise the bar for environmental standards and enforcement for the entire nation, with particular urgency on limiting climate change and addressing environmental injustice.
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. We will now ask the court to order a full cleanup of the toxic pollution flowing from surface and groundwater into the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River.
Removing barriers for solar power in Alabama
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 because the state’s largest utility company hits customers who want to go solar with punitive, unjust, and unnecessary fees. Alabama Power’s monthly fee 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. 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.
Working to jumpstart a transition to clean energy
SELC continues to push back as Alabama Power pursues more natural gas, which 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 Public Service Commission unfortunately granted the utility a $1.1 billion gas expansion, forcing captive customers to pay for the unneeded infrastructure for decades. Meanwhile, the rest of the South is moving toward renewable energy. SELC and partners will continue to fight for the utility to put the brakes on natural gas while pushing for a pivot to solar and clean energy in the state.
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.
Addressing coal ash pollution at Plant Barry
Thanks to SELC and our partners, utilities across the South are now cleaning up over 270 million tons of coal ash. However, Alabama Power wants to cap leaking pits in place and let them continue polluting our water, like at Plant Barry where over 21 million tons of ash is sitting in ground-water upstream from Mobile Bay. In a positive step, the EPA recently made it clear that utilities must deal with ash sitting in groundwater, and SELC will follow closely to make sure full cleanup is pursued.
Unjust burdens of pollution in North Birmingham
Two of the 14 U.S. coking plants sit two miles apart in a majority Black neighborhood in suburban Birmingham. In a major development, the county’s health department recently denied a permit for Bluestone Coke, a longtime violator of the Clean Air Act. Bluestone has since shut down operations. 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. The agreement requires a robust monitoring program and legally compels the company to fix all leaks.
Reining in natural gas
SELC and our partners are questioning TVA plans to build three new gas-fired turbines in Colbert County. 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.
Solutions for a healthy environment start in Alabama. Your support helps make our wins possible.
Fair energy for Alabama
Energy burdens—through a combination of low incomes with high energy costs—plague residents in parts of Alabama more than almost anywhere else in the country. These households often lack access to affordable clean energy solutions that could help lower their energy bills. SELC is working on an energy burden analysis of the Central Alabama Electric Cooperative service territory to show where customers are suffering with the highest energy burdens, demonstrating this complex problem with clarity and helping partners advocate for policy changes that address unfair energy burdens.
Restoring core federal protections
For four years, SELC stood strong against an unprecedented assault on our nation’s core environmental protections from Washington, D.C. We are now in a favorable position 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.