News | December 19, 2022

Reflecting on 2022: Our year in review

SELC took on some of the toughest environmental challenges facing the South and our country this past year. Our work pushed forward progress to protect our environment and along the way we achieved some extraordinary wins, with our clients and community partners by our side. Here’s a look back at some of our top stories from 2022.

Help us solve the greatest environmental challenges.

Cleaning up Alabama’s largest underground mine

Drummond Coal’s Maxine Mine has sat abandoned since the 1980s, sending unchecked amounts of pollution from the site into Alabama’s Black Warrior River for decades. Our legal win in state court forced the mining company to begin taking responsibility for their pollution by cleaning up the site and impacted waterways.

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Safeguarding neighbors around industrial hog operations

SELC and our partners successfully petitioned the EPA to investigate the impact of industrial hog operations on Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, and Latino communities in rural North Carolina. In some of these areas, hogs outnumber people 30 to 1 and frontline residents face serious water and odor pollution as a result.

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Protecting Charleston’s natural defenses against coastal flooding

We filed a lawsuit over the authorization of a massive development in the floodplain of the Cainhoy peninsula in Charleston. The project would destroy nearly 200 acres of wetlands that offer protection from intensifying storms and rising seas by storing flood water. We know there are smarter, safer alternatives to this proposed development.

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This year Broken Ground explored how Memphis beat the odds to stop a pipeline.

Preserving Tennessee’s Duck River

SELC and our partners secured a win for the Duck River in Tennessee, which is the one of the most biodiverse rivers in North America. The area is in the midst of a population boom, but that growth was coming at the expense of the area’s resources. Our settlement implemented limitations on the amount of water pumped from the river by local utilities.

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Protecting the Shenandoah Mountain

Virginia’s U.S. Senators introduced a bill to designate more than 92,000 acres of the Shenandoah Mountain in the George Washington National Forest as a National Scenic Area. Once passed by Congress, the designation will preserve majestic forests, spectacular vistas, and more than 150 miles of trails on the western edge of the Shenandoah Valley.

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Win for environmental justice in metro Atlanta

A community in metro Atlanta celebrated a big win this year when a judge ordered a solid waste facility to stop operating in the backyards of hundreds of Black neighbors. Our legal challenge prevented the facility from processing tons of industrial waste daily in this residential setting.

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We announced DJ Gerken as our new Executive Director. Hear his story and the vision for the future of SELC.

I am honored by the opportunity to lead this extraordinary organization as it tackles our country’s greatest environmental challenges. This is the moment to build a better climate future and ensure a healthier environment for all, and SELC is the organization to lead the way for the South and the nation.

DJ Gerken, President & Executive Director

Protecting the Okefenokee from strip mining

Last month, we filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision that removed Clean Water Act protections for the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The agency’s decision would leave 600 acres of wetlands on the doorstep of the swamp open to strip mining.

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Monacan Indian Nation’s historic capital saved

The Monacan Indian Nation engaged  with advocate groups, including SELC, to safeguard a sacred Monacan heritage site. Through this collaborative work led by the Monacan Indian Nation, the James River Water Authority agreed to move a proposed water pump station and pipeline to a different location, ensuring the tribe’s historic capital, Rassawek, can remain a landmark for future generations.

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Curbing climate change in North Carolina

North Carolina took a big step forward to address climate change this fall. Through an executive order by Governor Roy Cooper, the state established the Advanced Clean Trucks program, which significantly reduces carbon emissions from medium and heavy-duty trucks, which produce an outsize portion of the carbon pollution generated by transportation.

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We launched a mapping tool for users to explore the impacts of rising seas.

Limiting the harvest of horseshoe crabs

South Carolina’s beaches and wetlands are key habitat for wildlife, including horseshoe crabs and the threatened Rufa red knot bird, who relies on horseshoe crab eggs to fuel its annual migrations. Our attorneys successfully stopped the harvest of horseshoe crabs from the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, a sanctuary established decades ago for the protection of birds.

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Stopping biomass in North Carolina

The biomass industry destroys our Southern forests, dumps pollution on local communities, and fuels climate change. For the past two years, SELC has fought the construction of a biomass facility in Lumberton, North Carolina, which would have greatly increased water and air pollution in the region. This past summer Active Energy canceled plans for the controversial wood pellet facility.

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New federal guidelines to stop toxic PFAS pollution

EPA issued new guidance, just as SELC and our advocates urged the agency to do, building on our successes in the Cape Fear watershed. The guidance reinforces that states should use existing clean water laws to stop PFAS and other forever chemical pollution from contaminating our rivers, lakes, streams, and drinking water sources nationwide.

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Fighting for clean air in Birmingham

SELC, alongside our partner GASP, forced Bluestone Coke to cease operations of its Birmingham facility for violating its air permit for decades, which provided immediate air quality improvements for surrounding Black neighborhoods. Earlier this month, all parties reached a settlement requiring Bluestone Coke to install new equipment and pay fines to the health department.

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