South Carolina

As the South experiences extreme heat and increased flooding, there is no question we are at a critical time for our environmental future. We have the opportunity to protect our remarkable natural resources and to help turn the tide on climate change. SELC was built for this. 

Rooted in the South, we use strong legal and policy work, strategic vision, and pragmatic problem solving in all three branches and at all levels of government. When one door is closed, we find another way. With our commitment to place, SELC is building on 37 years of success in South Carolina and five other Southern states and driving results that resonate across the nation. That’s why we say, “Solutions Start in the South.”

Now is the time to act. Join us.

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 shorebird that depends on the crabs’ eggs to fuel a transpolar migration. 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 man-made containment ponds until they can take their blood for pharmaceutical purposes. There is a synthetic alternative to horseshoe crab blood that is equally effective. We filed a federal lawsuit in January 2022 to rein in the permits that allow this destructive and unnecessary 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 across the Lowcountry 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. 

Defending against inappropriate development

In August, we filed a federal lawsuit to challenge plans to destroy wetlands and marshes for the Cainhoy development, a proposed 9,000-acre residential and commercial development that would destroy nearly 200 acres of wetlands and place thousands of new homes directly in a floodplain. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved a Clean Water Act permit for this project over our objections, ignoring our expert reports outlining viable, less-damaging designs for the project that could dramatically lower wetland impacts. 

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 seeking to protect downtown by asking for more than a billion dollars from taxpayers to build a seawall that fails to account for a realistic amount of sea level rise and may actually exacerbate flooding problems. SELC is addressing this proposal, which would permanently alter the Charleston peninsula, by pushing the city and the Corps for a revised plan that would include nature-based solutions that are economically feasible and inclusive of all neighborhoods.

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

Defending clean energy gains

Through a string of historic victories at the Public Service Commission in 2020 and 2021, SELC helped get South Carolina’s energy planning on a path away from fossil fuel power and toward clean energy alternatives. But now that progress is in jeopardy after a series of recent negative decisions indicating an apparent shift in the commission’s attitude toward clean energy, coal retirement, and energy efficiency. We are fighting to defend our previous gains for the state’s investor-owned utilities and preparing for Santee Cooper’s first regulated long-term energy planning process. We will continue to 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. 

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.

Statewide clean water enforcement

SELC is tackling the problem of industrial toxins known as PFAS and 1,4 dioxane. These industrial toxins are known to cause serious health impacts, but conventional drinking and wastewater treatment does not remove them. In the Lowcountry, SELC continues to investigate potential industrial toxin pollution from the DAK Americas plant in Moncks Corner. This facility produces plastic resins and is a possible source of dioxane contamination detected in the Cooper River. We are also investigating potential industrial sources of PFAS across South Carolina and urging state agencies to use their authority under the Clean Water Act to protect the public from these toxins. We will not hesitate to take the state or polluters to court if they refuse to curb PFAS pollution. SELC also began working with the Charleston Waterkeeper in fall 2021 to investigate industrial facilities discharging polluted stormwater. Along with our partner, SELC plans to identify illegal discharges in and around the Charleston Harbor, with the goal of bringing these facilities into compliance with the Clean Water Act.