Virginia

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 Virginia 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.

Tackling the causes of climate change

Over the past two years, SELC played a central role in helping Virginia pass historic legislation committing the Commonwealth to taking on greenhouse gas pollution and adopting solar and wind energy solutions. The Clean Economy Act and related laws put Virginia on a cost-effective path to a zero-carbon electricity grid by 2050, in part by joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative; and the Clean Cars Act would substantially expand the availability of low-emission and electric vehicles and would eliminate 48 million tons of transportation-sector greenhouse gas emissions through 2040. The Clean Economy Act also cleared the way for Dominion Energy’s 2,600-megawatt offshore wind project—which will be the largest offshore wind project in the country, the first in federal waters, and the first by a monopoly electric utility.  

We are now seeing attacks on these laws on all fronts, and we expect challenges to intensify in the months to come. On his first day in office, Gov. Youngkin issued an Executive Order instructing state officials to pull Virginia out of RGGI—an unlawful move we are confronting. Facing the new composition of the General Assembly in 2022, we worked together with our allies to defeat a wave of bad bills that sought to repeal or undermine Virginia’s RGGI program, the Clean Economy Act, and the Clean Cars Act.  

Reining in gas power

SELC’s team that stopped the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is now focused on blocking the rush to expand “natural gas” across the South. Because methane is a potent greenhouse gas, these new commitments to fossil fuels could drag us backwards. Our Charlottesville office is leading this regional work. Despite Virginia’s new clean energy laws, companies are still seeking to profit and leave customers holding the bill by building destructive gas pipelines and facilities that are unnecessary and already obsolete. SELC is working to stop these unneeded gas proposals, and we are chalking up victories. We recently helped local partners derail two power plants planned for Charles City County. Like most fossil fuel infrastructure, these plants would have been located near communities of color already bearing an unfair burden of industrial pollution. 

Solutions start in Virginia.

Hear from Sarah Francisco, SELC’s Virginia Office Director, on the importance of stopping the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

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 promoting the conservation of vulnerable natural areas along the coast while advocating for better solutions to destructive projects, like the proposed extension of the Nimmo Parkway across Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge near Virginia Beach. We are also ensuring statewide planning and funding for flood resilience projects prioritize the preservation of wetlands and other natural resources and assist all Virginians equitably.  

Keeping toxins out of Virginia’s water

SELC is also tackling threats to clean water on the ground. As neighboring states deal with contamination of major watersheds with cancer-causing industrial chemicals like PFAS, SELC is pressing Virginia officials to conduct more sampling to better understand the scope of the problem and to get ahead of it by taking action to protect drinking water and stop this pollution at its source. We are also building on past success and strong partnerships to defend our state’s waters from the new threat of gold mining, which can produce toxic wastewater and acid mine drainage. 

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

Fighting for environmental justice

SELC is working alongside local partners to help ensure just environmental outcomes for Virginia’s communities. For example, we are celebrating back-to-back victories on environmental justice grounds against pipeline compressor stations—a landmark Fourth Circuit ruling in 2020 tossing out an air pollution permit for an Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor in Buckingham County; then, an historic win when the Virginia Air Board in 2021 denied a permit for a Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate compressor in Pittsylvania County, citing the Buckingham decision as precedent. When the pipeline developer challenged the Air Board’s historic decision, we intervened in the case on behalf of the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP.Though the developer withdrew its challenge, we remain vigilant. 

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-era rules that would take public voices out of decisions regarding public lands. 

Holding Washington accountable on clean water protections

For years, SELC stood strong against an unprecedented assault on our nation’s core Clean Water Act protections. EPA has promised to restore these critical safeguards and has taken 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 stories of real people across the South, for whom clean water is a way of life worth defending.