Solutions start in Virginia

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 and expertise, SELC can steer national policy on clean energy, clean water, public lands, and more. Today, we are embracing a charge to transform our region’s impact on climate change and to address a history of environmental injustice. With thanks to our partners, SELC is leading the way in reducing tailpipe and power plant emissions in Virginia, protecting our precious national forests, and helping ensure clean water and clean air for all, from the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay.

Realizing a zero-carbon grid

SELC played a central role in crafting the Clean Economy Act and other laws making Virginia a national leader in responding to climate change by committing to a zero-carbon electricity grid by 2050. Now we are fighting to ensure this clean energy transition is fair to customers and benefits all Virginians, through our efforts to bring solar to the coalfields, ensure environmental justice in the siting of energy facilities, and hold utilities to lowest-cost planning and fair rates. Meanwhile, Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has generated $142 million in under a year, and SELC is helping state agencies direct these revenues to energy efficiency programs for households struggling to make ends meet and to help communities cope with recurring flooding.

an aeriel view of a field of solar panels
Lines of solar panels generating cleaner, cheaper energy than coal or natural gas.

The South’s first clean cars bill

This year the General Assembly passed legislation making Virginia the first Southern state to adopt advanced clean cars standards that will substantially cut tailpipe pollution and expand the availability of electric vehicles. Clean cars are essential to addressing climate change because the transportation sector is the biggest source of carbon emissions both in Virginia and across the nation. SELC was a critical leader in developing and ensuring passage of this bill. The new standards will produce the greatest reduction of greenhouse gas pollution in state history by eliminating 48 million tons of carbon emissions through 2040.

Reining in natural gas

SELC is building on the expertise and partnerships developed through our historic victory defeating the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to slow down the rush to expand natural gas across the South. In Virginia, despite sweeping, SELC-led clean energy laws, Dominion and private companies are still seeking profit by building destructive gas pipelines and power plants that are unnecessary and already obsolete. To make sure fossil fuels don’t drag us backward, while saddling customers with the cost, SELC is working to stop these unneeded gas proposals.

Four students walk out single file on a flooded curb in Norfolk.
Norfolk-area students explore the flooded infrastructure during an event measuring local high tides. (@ Emily Richardson-Lorente)

Strengthening coastal resilience

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 promoting better solutions to destructive projects—like the proposed extension of the Nimmo Parkway across Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge near Virginia Beach—that would damage floodwater-storing wetlands. We are also strengthening Virginia’s protections for Chesapeake Bay tributaries and ensuring Virginia’s coastal resilience plans and policies for flood resilience funding prioritize nature-based solutions and assist all Virginians equitably.

Holding the Biden administration accountable

For four years, SELC led the way in holding the line against an unprecedented assault on our nation’s core Clean Water Act protections. The Biden administration has promised to restore these critical safeguards and has taken some steps in the right direction. But it is up to us to make sure this effort stays on track—through a strategic campaign combining SELC’s Clean Water Act expertise with our partner network and the stories of real people across the South for whom clean water is a way of life worth defending.

Keeping toxins out of Virginia’s waters

While providing the legal muscle to help restore our backstop of federal standards, SELC is also tackling threats to clean water on the ground. As neighboring states deal with contamination of major watersheds with cancer-causing industrial toxins like PFAS and 1,4-dioxane, SELC is pressing state officials to enact strong regulations that protect Virginians’ drinking waters from these risky chemicals. We are also building on past success and strong partnerships to defend our state’s rivers from the new threat of gold mining, which produces toxic wastewater.

A tent is set up on the edge of field overlooking sunset in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Sunset off of the Appalachian Trail.

Fighting for environmental justice

SELC is working alongside local partners to ensure just outcomes for Virginia’s communities. Developers canceled plans to build one of two gas-fired power plants proposed in Charles City County that would bring new pollution to Black communities. As we continue our efforts to prevent the second plant, we are also tackling the state’s proposed approval of a gas pipeline compressor station in Pittsylvania County without fully considering impacts on nearby communities of color. Elsewhere, we are supporting local opposition to a mega-landfill proposed in Cumberland County adjacent to a historic African-American school.

Protecting Virginia’s national forests

Since day one, keeping our Southern Appalachian national forests wild and beautiful has been a top SELC priority. For more than three decades, we have worked at every level—from stopping egregious clearcutting to upholding critical federal standards—to defend the most remote, unspoiled places. Today we are working with partners to champion permanent protections for the heart of the George Washington National Forest on Shenandoah Mountain, while pushing forward in our challenge of unprecedented Trump rules that would take public voices out of decisions regarding public lands.

Because of your support, we’re able to solve the South’s biggest environmental challenges.