North 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 North Carolina and five other Southern states and driving results that resonate across the nation. That’s why we say, “Solutions Start in the South.”

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SELC’s cutting edge clean water work is shaping national policy

We pioneered legal strategies that are addressing major sources of water contamination across North Carolina and establishing proven models that are driving national policy. Our innovative approach to enforcing cleanup of toxic coal ash pollution under the Clean Water Act has led to court and state orders for utilities to clean up over 136 million tons of coal ash polluting North Carolina’s waterways. 

We applied this same strategy to PFAS pollution and reached a legally binding consent order with Chemours and the state to remove at least 99 percent of GenX discharges into the Cape Fear River at the company’s Fayetteville facility. We have reached agreements with Burlington and Greensboro to identify and address the sources of similar industrial pollution in the Haw River. Because this contamination has been ongoing for years, there is more work to be done to clean up toxins in drinking water supplies in various downstream communities like Wilmington and Pittsboro—but we have shown that our states have the existing authority to effectively combat PFAS pollution. As a result of our advocacy, North Carolina issued a permit to Chemours that includes the most protective PFAS limits in the country. We are now urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to recognize this authority in national guidelines the agency intends to release later this year, which will impact how states address PFAS pollution across the country.

In response to a civil rights complaint we filed, EPA launched an investigation into the discriminatory impact of industrial hog operations in North Carolina. In summer 2021, over the opposition of community-based organizations, the conservation community, and SELC, the North Carolina legislature passed an industry-serving law requiring DEQ to develop a one-size-fits-all permit for hog operations that produce biogas. Despite robust public engagement led by SELC, the agency again failed to require hog operations to adopt cleaner technology, protect against leaks and spills, and enact rigorous monitoring requirements for all hog operations that produce biogas. SELC has challenged the biogas general permit on behalf of Environmental Justice Community Action Network and Cape Fear River Watch in state administrative court.  

Decarbonizing North Carolina’s economy

To achieve Gov. Cooper’s carbon reduction goals, North Carolina regulators approved SELC’s petition to adopt a declining cap on power plant emissions and join Virginia and 10 other states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cost-effective way to drive down fossil fuel power generation. With recent legislation giving authority to the utility commission to enact a similar carbon-reduction program, we are advocating for RGGI to be part of the solution. In response to a proposed plan filed by Duke Energy earlier this year, SELC and partners filed their own proposal to reach the legislative mandate of 70% emissions reductions by 2030, and carbon neutrality by 2050. The proposal reaches the carbon mandates on time and does so in a more cost-effective manner than Duke Energy’s plan, and we hope commissioners will adopt a strategy that captures the full potential of carbon reduction and energy efficiency.

Solutions start in North Carolina.

At SELC, we’re driven to go above and beyond in our work to protect the air, the water, and the special places of the Southeast.

Burning forests is not a climate change solution

SELC is raising awareness that European biomass policies—enacted to address climate change—are actually making the problem worse. Cutting trees in the Southern U.S. to fuel power plants overseas increases carbon in the atmosphere for up to a century. Recently, we filed a federal lawsuit challenging a British-owned pellet company’s violations in Lumberton. Thanks to SELC advocacy, the company decided against opening the facility—a win for Lumberton, but we will keep a close watch on plans for other wood pellet facilities. Overseas, our Cut Carbon Not Forests campaign is pushing to reform British policies propping up the industry, and we are warning politicians in D.C. against taking up support of biomass. 

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Good news for endangered species

SELC is a champion for the South’s unparalleled biodiversity. We are battling in federal court to promote the recovery of the world’s only wild population of red wolves in eastern North Carolina. After we won a preliminary injunction ordering the government to resume releases of captive wolves, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released ten red wolves into the wild this spring. Additionally, six red wolf pups were born in the wild this year—the first wild litter of red wolf pups since 2018. We are hopeful that the recent releases are the first of many steps by Fish and Wildlife needed to ensure the success of the North Carolina population, and we will continue to monitor the agency’s actions going forward.

Removing barriers to solar power

SELC is taking on bad policies that keep many in North Carolina from installing rooftop solar. Thanks to leadership from SELC and our partners, North Carolina’s Supreme Court recently ruled that homeowners’ association provisions cannot be used to prohibit rooftop solar panels under the state’s Solar Access Law. This decision reduces a significant barrier to accessing residential solar power in North Carolina and will help drive local job creation and economic development in the state’s growing solar industry. 

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

Promoting coastal resilience in North Carolina

As climate change fuels rising seas and erodes shorelines, SELC is helping North Carolina increase resiliency along the coast. Our new website and interactive mapping tool, The Changing Coast, is helping citizens, activists, and policymakers look at how both current and proposed infrastructure will fare in a wetter future as sea level rise and climate change reshape the Southeastern coast. SELC is also using our expertise in renewable energy to lead the national environmental community in supporting responsible offshore wind development at Kitty Hawk and Wilmington. SELC also continues to support North Carolina in ensuring visitors retain public access to the sands and surf along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. With several houses falling into the surf in the past year alone, SELC has been working closely with the National Park Service and other partners to implement new strategies to keep the beach free from hazards like septic waste and construction debris.