South Carolina

The Southern Environmental Law Center’s approach is rooted in local presence, place-based action, and a network of partners throughout our six Southern states along with coordinated legal, strategy, and communications expertise. By successfully tackling complex environmental issues and powerful opponents in our particular region over 35 years, SELC has consistently delivered nationally significant results and earned a reputation as one of the most effective nonprofits in the US. Our South Carolina team is dedicated to state-based work and championing communities and natural resources from Upstate to the Midlands to the Lowcountry—while simultaneously seeking to use our local results to raise the bar for environmental standards and enforcement for the entire nation, with particular urgency on limiting climate change and addressing environmental injustice.

SELC takes next step to protect horseshoe crabs and red knots

After using litigation to stop the commercial harvesting of horseshoe crabs at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, SELC is taking the next step to protect horseshoe crabs and the threatened Rufa Red Knot, a migratory bird that depends on the crabs. South Carolina is the only state that allows biomedical companies to capture thousands of crabs and hold them for months on end, including during spawning, in manmade containment ponds until the company can take their blood for medical purposes. We filed a federal lawsuit in January to rein in the permits that allow this destructive practice. 

New web tool clarifies threats to the changing coast

South Carolinians are experiencing the impact of climate change as more powerful and frequent storms make flooding a constant threat. The accelerating rate of sea level rise in Charleston is adding to this vulnerability, but developers and officials in the city are failing to adapt and protect our coastal resources and communities. To raise awareness of these threats, SELC launched The Changing Coast, a website and interactive map showing how rising seas and a changing climate will reshape the Southern coast in the coming years, and demonstrating vividly the irresponsibility of proposals like Cainhoy, which would destroy nearly 200 acres of wetlands to build up to 9,000 homes on largely undeveloped land that is already vulnerable to flooding. 

Helping the Phillips Community confront a destructive highway project

Founded by freed people after the Civil War, the Phillips Community outside of Charleston is fighting to stop a proposal to widen Highway 41 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 floodplains nearby. After SELC and our partners came alongside Phillips residents and pushed the local government to scrap the plan, the county is moving forward with a much-improved alternative. SELC will continue to work with the Phillips Community in the upcoming permitting process to support the new alternative that is favored by the community and its residents. 

Solutions start in South Carolina.

Nonprofit and nonpartisan, we are the Southern Environmental Law Center. The South’s largest and most effective environmental defender.

Innovative coastal resilience policy

Flooding is the Lowcountry’s top threat, and SELC is promoting solutions that protect the coast while opposing misguided responses. We helped pass a historic coastal resilience law, and now we are working to shape the state’s new agency—the South Carolina Office of Resilience—and its statewide plan, which can help direct federal disaster funding to those who need it most, prioritize nature-based flooding solutions, and keep development out of vulnerable areas.

Responding to the Charleston seawall

As the Corps of Engineers continues to approve irresponsible projects (like Cainhoy, above) that will worsen flooding in Charleston, the Corps and the city are asking for more than a billion dollars from taxpayers to build a seawall to protect downtown. SELC is addressing this proposal, which would permanently alter the Charleston peninsula, by pushing for a revised plan that would include effective, natural solutions that are inclusive of all neighborhoods.

Defending clean energy gains

Through a string of historic victories at the Public Service Commission, SELC helped get South Carolina’s energy planning on a path away from fossil fuel power and toward clean energy alternatives. Now we are fighting to defend these gains for the state’s investor-owned utilities and preparing for Santee Cooper’s first regulated long-term energy planning process. We will press for speedy retirement of coal-fired power plants, make sure coal is not simply replaced by another fossil fuel, and advocate for expansion of efficiency, solar power, and battery storage.

Solutions for a healthy environment start in South Carolina. Your support helps make our wins possible.

Standing up for affordable clean energy

South Carolina law protects access to energy choices—like rooftop solar and efficiency—that allow customers to control their electricity bills. As the cost of natural gas spikes, SELC is protecting and promoting customer access to these cost-saving options. And following up on a settlement we helped secure in 2020, we are working with Dominion and allies to develop an energy affordability program for customers who struggle to make ends meet.

Keeping plastic out of our water

As the plastic industry expands, SELC’s federal lawsuit and million-dollar settlement with Frontier Logistics showed companies they cannot dump plastic pellets—called nurdles—into Charleston Harbor without consequences. We are working with an expert to make sure the new Frontier facility has solved its spillage problems—and as nurdles continue to wash up on area beaches, we are collaborating with partners to identify and stop other possible sources of this pollution.

Restoring core federal protections

For four years, SELC stood strong against an unprecedented assault on our nation’s core environmental protections from Washington, D.C. We are now in a favorable position to hold the federal government accountable as it seeks to restore safeguards under the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and other critical laws. We are leading regional and national advocacy campaigns, speaking up for Southern resources, and using our unmatched expertise to help guide the restoration and strengthening of federal standards.