Solutions start in South Carolina
SELC is one of the most effective environmental organizations in the South. For 37 years, our place-based approach has made us the fiercest watchdog for our region’s natural treasures and rich biodiversity. Because of this impressive track record, SELC can steer national policy on clean energy, clean water, public lands, and more. Today, we are accepting the mantle of transforming our region’s impact on climate change and addressing a history of environmental injustice. Largely thanks to SELC and our partners, we are making room for renewable energy in South Carolina, protecting our communities from the impacts of climate change, and helping ensure clean water and clean air for all, from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Lowcountry and barrier islands.
SELC gets big win for Cape Romain, coastal wildlife
After years of negotiation and litigation, SELC stopped the commercial harvesting of horseshoe crabs at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is a stop over for migratory birds, including threatened rufa red knots, which fly from South America to Cape Romain, where they feed on nutrient-rich horseshoe crab eggs before continuing to the Arctic. The Fish and Wildlife Service allowed the illegal harvest of horseshoe crabs from the refuge, upsetting the delicate natural balance of this protected area. After SELC went to court, the agency barred harvesting without prior approval, effectively ending this bad practice.
Helping the Phillips community confront a destructive highway project
A group of Lowcountry neighborhoods founded by freed slaves after the Civil War, the Phillips Community is fighting to stop a proposal to widen Highway 41—a project that would bisect the community. The existing road is already vulnerable to high tide flooding, and the proposal would bring further development to the rural areas and flood plains nearby. After SELC and our partners came alongside Phillips residents and pushed the local government to scrap the plan, the county approved a revised proposal that dramatically reduces impacts to the community, and we expect the county to apply for permits in the coming months.
Enacting policy to shore up coastal resilience
Flooding is the Lowcountry’s top threat, and SELC is promoting solutions that protect the coast while opposing misguided responses to sea level rise and more powerful storms. In 2020, lawmakers passed historic, SELC-initiated legislation that creates a state resilience office and a fund to help with voluntary buyouts of frequently flooded properties. This year, we successfully advocated for a robust $50 million budget for resilience efforts under the new law.
Shaping Charleston development to protect the South Carolina coast
SELC notched a win for coastal wetlands in a settlement where developers of Long Savannah, a proposed 3,000-acre project near Charleston, agreed to conserve 50 acres of wetlands and put $250,000 toward flood mitigation. Meanwhile, SELC is addressing the nearly $2 billion proposal to build a sea wall around downtown Charleston. We are pushing for effective flooding solutions that are nature-based, respectful of the city’s character, and inclusive of all neighborhoods.
Building a clean energy future
SELC notched another clean energy victory at the state’s Public Service Commission, which ordered Duke Energy to make significant changes to a long-term energy plan that doubled down on natural gas while skewing unfairly against solar, storage, and energy efficiency. Because we stepped in, the commission ordered Duke to level the playing field for clean energy as required by the 2019 Energy Freedom Act, a law that SELC played a significant role in passing.
Holding Dominion Energy accountable
SELC fought back and won after Dominion Energy proposed one of the worst solar policies in the country. Instead, we convinced the Public Service Commission to move forward with a proposal that will safeguard rooftop solar as a cost-saving option for customers. And, thanks to SELC, regulators also rejected the utility’s insufficient plan to meet future energy needs, requiring Dominion to include a stronger commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Keeping plastic out of our waters
When the state ignored millions of plastic pellets spilled into Charleston Harbor, SELC filed a federal lawsuit and secured a $1-million settlement to stop this illegal pollution, ensure cleanup of beaches, and set a precedent as the plastics industry expands. Settlement funds will be used to improve water quality in the Charleston Harbor watershed, and the company responsible has agreed to implement protective control measures and allow independent review of its operations.
Defending wetlands from development
Next door to the freshwater marshes, tidal rivers, and bottomland hardwoods of Savannah River National Wildlife Refuge, developers have proposed a 4,300-acre Riverport development in a critical buffer area for the refuge. The previous administration stripped Clean Water Act protections from more than 200 wetland acres in the project area. While we fight to restore federal protections, SELC is pushing for a full federal environmental review with consideration of less-damaging alternatives.
Restoring core federal protections
For four years, SELC stood strong against an unprecedented assault on our nation’s environmental protections. The Biden administration has taken some positive steps toward restoring safeguards under the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and other critical laws. But with endless problems in D.C., it is up to us to keep our leaders on track and to protect vulnerable Southern resources on the ground while we help ensure the restoration of stronger federal standards.