News | March 1, 2021

On the Ground in Virginia

The right organization, in the right place, at the right time.

For 35 years, SELC’s place-based approach has protected the basic right to clean air and clean water, preserved our region’s natural treasures, and helped provide a healthy environment for all. Our multifaceted strategy uses every tool in the toolbox to produce historic outcomes in our six states—like Virginia’s groundbreaking clean energy laws and the excavation of 255 million tons of toxic coal ash across the South—while raising the bar for protection across our region and the whole country. Over the past four years and in the midst of a global pandemic, SELC fought for the rule of law and slowed or stopped the most calamitous unraveling of environmental safeguards in modern history.

With our broad network of dedicated partners, we managed to preserve a solid foundation so that now we can all move ahead on pressing challenges like climate change and environmental injustices. SELC lawyers are highlighting the most urgent priorities for the new administration, offering solutions based in science and the law, ensuring that good changes stick, and going to court to set strong precedents when necessary. Thanks to our generous, faithful supporters, SELC is ready for what lies ahead and confident we can continue securing results that matter for this country, the South, and our beautiful Commonwealth—from the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay.


SELC fought to craft and ensure the passage of legislation committing Virginia to a zero-carbon electricity grid by 2050 and making the state a national leader in confronting climate change. Now SELC is ensuring state regulators implement these new laws. We're also fighting to make sure our clean energy transition is fair and benefits all Virginians, through efforts to bring solar to the coalfields, ensure environmental justice in the siting of energy facilities, and more. In neighboring North Carolina, we are working to achieve similar carbon reduction standards there.


Following through on our and our partners’ historic victory defeating the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, SELC is leveraging the expertise we developed in that battle to take on other unneeded natural gas proposals in Virginia. Dominion wants to build two new natural gas units at Chesterfield Power Station near Richmond even though the utility knows these are obsolete, as Virginia’s clean energy future has already been charted. To make sure the state doesn’t allow fossil fuels to drag us backward, SELC is working to stop these and other natural gas proposals.


After decades of focus on ratcheting down emissions from the power sector, transportation is now the top source of greenhouse gas emissions in Virginia. With decades of experience, unmatched expertise, and a proven track record— SELC is pushing for cleaner transportation and smarter growth, most recently by securing historic clean car legislation projected to be the greatest carbon reduction policy the state has adopted to date.


Coastal communities are feeling the effects of climate change, and Hampton Roads has one of the highest rates of sea level rise on the East Coast. SELC is conserving vulnerable natural areas along the coast while opposing proposals that would damage floodwater-storing wetlands. We are also shaping Virginia’s first coastal resilience plan and programs to help communities with recurring flooding, and urging officials to explicitly consider coastal resilience in evaluating new proposals.


SELC is working alongside local partners to ensure just outcomes for Virginia’s communities. We convinced regulators to demand environmental justice concerns be addressed on proposed natural gas projects in Tidewater. We are supporting the Monacan Indian Nation as it presses to change a plan for a water intake and pump station at Rassawek, the historic Monacan capital. And we are making sure state environmental permits comply with legal precedents we and our clients secured.


Over the past six years, SELC led the protection of our coast from offshore drilling, going to court to keep seismic blasting from harming right whales. State law prohibits drilling up to three miles off the coast, but we are pressing the Biden administration to permanently protect all South Atlantic coastal waters. And as Virginia builds the first offshore wind farm in federal waters, we are working to ensure this clean energy solution does not harm wildlife nearby.


After four years of unrelenting assaults, our country’s clean water protections are at their weakest in over 50 years. SELC is leading the national fight to protect the rivers, streams, and wetlands in the South and across the country now vulnerable to pollution. We are in federal court on behalf of regional and national partners to limit the damage. And as the Biden team confronts this dire situation, SELC is highlighting the importance of rebuilding the nation’s clean water protections.


The Trump administration limited public engagement in every federal decision that would harm natural resources, from coastal highways to logging our public lands, and put at risk old growth, pristine steams, and backcountry retreats in Virginia’s George Washington and Jefferson national forests. SELC is challenging these changes in federal court, and pressing the Biden administration to restore critical protections.

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