Press Release | February 7, 2013

Southern Environmental Law Center Releases 5th Annual List of Top 10 Endangered Places in the Southeast

Attacks on environmental safeguards and energy issues pose top threats to South’s air, water, communities, and special places

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), the largest environmental advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the Southeast, today released its fifth annual list of the top 10 places in the South that face immediate, potentially irreparable, threats in 2013.

According to Nat Mund, SELC’s Legislative Director, the chief threat to the South’s natural treasures this year is a combination of economic and political challenges in addition to a vigorous crusade by anti-environmentalists in Congress and state legislatures to weaken environmental laws and enforcement.

“There’s absolutely no reason why we have to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy—in fact, the two go hand-in-hand,” Mund said. “History shows that investing in clean water, healthy air, and clean energy can create jobs and save money—and lives—in the long run. And yet, many of the South’s natural treasures are at stake because of short-sighted attempts to weaken environmental safeguards under the guise of fiscal responsibility.”

Energy issues are also a major theme on this year’s list. “How we power our homes and businesses will determine the fate of many of the South’s special places,” Mund said. “SELC is advocating a better path toward a clean energy future that includes less destructive ways of extracting resources and greater investment in energy-efficiency and renewables.” The Top 10 Endangered Places list therefore includes four urgent priority projects for SELC’s Clean Energy Program: fracking in Alabama’s Talladega National Forest, coal ash pollution in South Carolina’s Waccamaw River, mountaintop removal coal mining in Virginia and Tennessee, and an intense push to mine uranium in Southside, Virginia.

2013 Top 10 Endangered Places in the Southeast

The following endangered areas were chosen from among hundreds of special places that SELC is defending through its law and policy work in the six states of Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.

Talladega National Forest, Alabama: Pressure to allow fracking on 43,000 acres of the Talladega National Forest risks drinking water supplies for downstream communities and would bring industrial operations into beloved camping and hiking areas and sensitive wildlife habitat.

Metro Atlanta’s Water Supply: Plans for multiple unnecessary reservoirs in the metro Atlanta area threaten water supplies for downstream communities, numerous headwater streams and aquatic ecosystems.

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina: Plans to widen U.S. 64 would destroy 300 acres of valuable wetlands and habitat for the last wild population of red wolves, a federally endangered species.

Cape Fear Basin, North Carolina: A massive cement plant proposed for a site near Wilmington would destroy 1,000 acres of wetlands, add unsafe levels of mercury to local waters, and increase air pollution.

Courthouse Creek, North Carolina: A proposed timber sale in the viewshed of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville threatens 472 acres of sensitive forest, a popular recreation destination, trout streams, and local tourism.

Waccamaw River, South Carolina: Two unlined coal ash ponds near Myrtle Beach are contaminating groundwater with arsenic at up to 300 times the state standard, which flows into the Waccamaw River upstream of drinking water supplies and a national wildlife refuge.

Goforth Creek Canyon, Tennessee: A scenic spot on the Ocoee Scenic Byway will be permanently damaged if the state builds a new and unnecessary highway through the Cherokee National Forest along a route known as Corridor K.

Virginia and Tennessee’s Mountains: Mountaintop removal continues to threaten forests, streams, wildlife, and communities across Southern Appalachia, including a new project masquerading as a highway called the Coalfields Expressway.

Charlottesville, Virginia: Despite more cost-effective, less damaging alternatives and strong public opposition, a $244 million proposed bypass would leave a permanent scar on one of the South’s most special communities.

Southside, Virginia: An intense, ongoing push to lift Virginia’s longstanding ban on uranium mining threatens the health of the Roanoke River Basin, which supplies drinking water for more than 1 million people.

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