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 nearly 40 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 and moving it away from rivers to lined landfills. However, Alabama Power insists on minimizing its own costs by capping unlined, leaking lagoons in place. These 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 filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Mobile Baykeeper to declare Alabama Power’s closure plan illegal and force the utility to clean up its mess.
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 secured two precedent-setting federal court rulings against Drummond Coal, whose abandoned Maxine Mine was found in violation of the Clean Water Act. These 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.
Settlement delivers big win for North Birmingham
With a historic settlement that holds accountable one of Alabama’s worst polluters, SELC and GASP reached a major achievement in our work to stop unjust industrial air pollution plaguing majority Black neighborhoods in suburban Birmingham. Under an unprecedented judicial decree, Bluestone Coke must pay a nearly $1 million dollar penalty—the largest fine issued in county history. SELC, the county health department, and GASP had already forced Bluestone to close the facility, but the settlement makes it much more difficult to reopen. This resolution confirms significant progress in stopping decades of abusive industrial pollution in this part of Birmingham, and we will continue to find ways to keep pressure on Bluestone to clean up its act.
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 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. In response, 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 and downstream communities in Alabama.
Removing barriers for solar power in Alabama
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, discriminatory 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 infrastructure while pushing for a pivot to solar and clean energy in the state.
Defending Birmingham’s drinking water
SELC is working to compel the Birmingham Water Works Board to comply with a 2001 settlement agreement requiring the board to permanently protect over 6,000 acres of undeveloped land around Lake Purdy and the Cahaba River that provide a critical natural buffer protecting the city’s drinking water supply. After the Alabama Supreme Court in 2022 ruled unanimously in our favor, finding that the board violated its obligations under the settlement, we returned to state court, on behalf of ratepayers and conservation groups, to press claims against the board and the state Attorney General, an intervenor on the side of the board, seeking a ruling that will enforce the settlement’s requirement that the board protect this land through a permanent conservation easement.
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 working on several fronts to ensure that the federal government restores 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.