We Work in the Public Interest for Environmental Protection and Justice

Since its inception, SCELP has participated in virtually every major environmental issue in the state, providing legal assistance to individuals, groups and organizations, including representation in state and federal courts and before state and federal administrative agencies.

Throughout our existence, we have concentrated our efforts on cases designed to strengthen state and local laws and conservation outcomes. As the only non-profit public interest law firm focused exclusively on South Carolina, SCELP has a long history of protecting the state’s natural heritage and establishing favorable precedents, ranging from protections for salt marsh and freshwater wetlands, to beachfront and coastal zone management, to hazardous and solid waste management, limitations on dredging, and citizens’ rights to protect themselves from environmental harm.

SCELP IS needed NOW more than ever

Why Protect the Environment?


Natural resources in South Carolina are one of our most valuable assets. We have miles of beautiful beaches, spectacular mountain ridges and vistas, winding and serene rivers and waterways, swamps, wetlands and forests of national renown, all supporting diverse wildlife.


The health of our economy is inextricably linked to the health of our natural environment, which provides valuable ecosystem services. Those services include mitigating flooding and providing wildlife habitat for recreational and commercial uses.

Health & Happiness

In addition to sustaining our economy, natural resources play an integral role in our spiritual and physical well-being by providing open spaces in which to recreate and rejuvenate, as well as maintaining healthy water quality and quantity.

Pollution & Inequity

It is well documented that vulnerable communities are often located in the most dangerous zones of our floodplains, or in regions that are exposed to toxic pollution sources: coal-fired power plants, open-air lagoons, nuclear waste facilities, megadumps and other polluting industries.


Fairness and inclusion for all people, regardless of group identity, with respect to environmental law and decision-making is the most systemic approach to achieve equitable outcomes, while improving our state's regulatory system, especially given the history and continuing legacy of racial discrimination.

Future Generations

Our lives and quality of life are increasingly dependent on the health of our ecosystems. As the impact of climate change intensifies, we have an obligation towards our children and their children to do everything we can to advance environmental protection and justice across our state.

Our focus

SCELP's Legal Expertise Covers the Following Areas:

See All Cases

Strategic Priorities

More about who we are

History & Vision

SCELP was formed in 1987 as a special project of Energy Research Foundation, a private non-profit foundation with offices in Columbia. In 1995, the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, Inc., was formed as an independent corporate entity. SCELP received tax exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code in early 1996.

SCELP’s driving purpose is to protect the health and vitality of our natural resources by ensuring sound, science-based decision-making. We strive to create, refine, and enforce environmental protections by offering our legal expertise to those in need, giving them an effective voice and legal muscle in the administrative, legislative and judicial processes. In short, we give citizens a voice in an increasingly complex democratic process, when they would otherwise be financially foreclosed or procedurally marginalized.

Who We Collaborate With

South Carolina's environmental laws are designed to protect air and water quality, wildlife and special habitats. SCELP’s mission is most effectively accomplished when we empower advocates working to protect our natural environment and ensure that our laws are vigorously implemented and enforced. Without our legal services, inappropriately sited and ill-suited projects destroy and degrade our natural resources, harming environmental and human health.

SCELP's clients include local, state and national organizations, including Sierra Club, South Carolina Wildlife Federation, South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, League of Women Voters, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the Earth, Charleston Waterkeeper, Winyah Rivers Alliance, and a variety of other ad hoc groups.

Our Process

We take an integrative approach to achieving our objectives. First, we have a permit monitoring program by which we review activities that will harm or destroy natural resources. Through this program, we gather information on harmful projects; review permit applications for compliance with state and federal environmental laws; submit written comments in response to projects which would violate these laws; attend and comment at public hearings; and challenge decisions that do not meet the required legal protections.

We also provide legal advice on environmental issues and assistance in resolving these issues to communities in need. When litigation becomes necessary, we provide experienced counsel to fight for clean air and water, conservation of wildlife and natural systems, and protection of healthy communities. Often this occurs in the context of agency permits, but also local land use and zoning decisions.

As a 501(c)(3) charity, SCELP is governed by a Board of Directors. To ensure compliance with public interest guidelines of the Internal Revenue Service, all cases must be reviewed and approved by the Board after giving careful consideration to SCELP's internal case-selection policy:


Public Interest

Litigation must defend or advance a position on behalf of the public at large on matters of public interest.



The significance of the environmental impacts flowing directly or indirectly from the challenged project.



The likelihood of the case in establishing or reinforcing valuable legal precedent.



The value of the case in raising important public policy issues, whether environmental or non-environmental.

Questions or comments?

Reach out and we'll get in touch as soon as possible.

Email Us
All rights reserved 2022.