News | April 13, 2022

Celebrating Earth Day with five environmental wins for the South

Earth Day is a time to act, a time to remember, and a time to celebrate. Already in 2022, we’ve witnessed several extraordinary environmental wins for our region, from pipeline cancellations to climate action and protecting clean water.

As a region, the South faces many complex environmental challenges—some inherited and some created—yet also the opportunity to make extraordinary progress, for our region and for the world. Earth Day reminds us of our ability to make lasting change. After all, solutions start in the South.

To mark Earth Day this year, let’s look back at five of the biggest wins we’ve accomplished in just the first few months of 2022.

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Making an impact in 2022

Cancelation of the Chickahominy pipeline and power plant

The Chickahominy Pipeline would have cut a path through the heart of Virginia, endangering communities and natural resources along its route and moving to lock our region into fossil fuels. The proposed pipeline and power station were initially approved despite objections from local residents in Charles City County, which is predominantly Black. Working with groups of concerned citizens, our legal and advocacy efforts proved successful, leading Chickahominy Pipeline, LLC to announce the cancelation of its plans in March.

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Fighting for environmental justice in North Carolina

Pollution rarely impacts all communities equally—too often, communities of color or economically disadvantaged neighborhoods shoulder more pollution burdens. Filing on behalf of the local NAACP chapter and the North Carolina Poor People’s Campaign, we successfully petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the impacts of industrial hog operations on Black and Latino communities in North Carolina. This is a big win for necessary policy improvements that better protect communities of color in the area.

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Protecting Birmingham’s water supply in Alabama Supreme Court

Working with local clean water advocacy groups, we achieved a major victory at the Alabama Supreme Court that represents another step toward enforcing permanent safeguards for a major source of drinking water for the state’s largest city. The Birmingham Water Works Board has already sold a parcel of land for development, despite a 2001 settlement agreement requiring that a conservation easement be established for 6,000 acres that surround the city’s drinking water sources. Not only would industrializing this area break the law, but it would also put the city’s water supply at risk of contamination. A favorable decision on our appeal from the state’s highest court allows our case to go forward to protect clean, safe drinking water in Birmingham in perpetuity.


Defending clean energy laws in Virginia

At the Southern Environmental Law Center, we work each and every day to advance climate action. That’s why we went to battle when the Virginia General Assembly aimed to undercut the state’s Clean Car Standards, the Virginia Clean Economy Act, and the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. We worked with the Commonwealth’s environmental community, trade associations, and businesses to block these attempts to diminish Virginia’s climate progress. Blocking these legislative challenges is a major victory for Virginia, the region, and our climate future.


Safeguarding Tennessee’s Duck River

The Duck River is among the most biodiverse rivers in North America, making it the crown jewel of Tennessee’s river system and the backbone of the region’s outdoor recreation economy. Rapid development is threatening the area’s natural resources. We recently represented The Nature Conservancy and the Tennessee Wildlife Federation to reach a settlement with a local water utility and the state, which allows state regulators to limit the amount of water the utility can pump out of the river during droughts and other times of low flow. By keeping withdrawal limitations in place, we safeguarded one of the South’s most pristine and vibrant bodies of water.


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In light of these successes, we continue our work to provide a healthy environment for all. Together, we can cement more victories for the environment and our communities and show that solutions start in the South.

This year, make Earth Day last all year long by supporting our work and help secure more wins like these for our region. Be part of the solutions and make a recurring monthly gift today.