Ever since our founding, we have strived to create, refine and enforce environmental protections by offering our legal expertise to those in need, amplifying their voice and training their legal muscles in situations when they would otherwise be financially foreclosed or procedurally marginalized. We aim to carry forward SCELP’s original motto “no case is too small” whenever a vulnerable community seeks assistance in our areas of expertise.Support Our Work
2022 marked the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the landmark law enacted in 1972 in response to the alarming pollution of US waters, including Ohio's Cuyahoga River catching on fire.
Yet fifty years later, water and hazardous chemicals still mix too often, too easily and too predictably in certain ZIP codes. At SCELP, we know that even if pollution and toxic contamination are somewhat localized, we all breathe the same air, drink the same water and live off the same land.
Industrial pollution is still a major problem today also because major polluters across the nation were allowed to dump in the South and find other sacrifice zones to operate within. Thanks to the early vision and success of SCELP under our founder Jimmy Chandler’s leadership, we were able to force the shutdown of the Safety-Kleen (formerly Laidlaw) Pinewood landfill, the Tyger River incinerator and the Thermal-KEM incinerator in Rock Hill, while also fighting and preventing the creation of mega-dumps in rural Marlboro and Laurens Counties.
And today, we are carrying on Jimmy’s legacy, taking on important cases like challenging DHEC’s authorization to fill Gadsden Creek in Charleston while not giving up on pushing for swift cleanup of the Bramlett site in Greenville’s Southernside community. We’re advocating for access to safe, affordable and reliable drinking water across the state – asking for limits on harmful PFAS chemicals and for protective regulations for water storage tanks. And we are zeroing in on cultural resource protection, given the long history of successful environmental stewardship in Gullah/Geechee and other indigenous communities.
While we may not see rivers catching on fire anymore, the disproportionate burden of pollution and environmental harm on certain people must remain front and center if we are truly looking for systemic solutions to increasingly daunting challenges of worsening environmental crises and climate change.
The EPA has long defined Environmental Justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.”
Environmental inequities have disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income communities for decades, if not centuries. It is well documented that these are vulnerable communities because they 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.
Even without "Cancer Alleys" equivalent to Texas and Louisiana’s or concentrated animal feeding operations equivalent to North Carolina’s, South Carolina is still grappling with a long history and continuing legacy of discrimination, segregation and environmental racism.
In the Upstate and Midlands, decade-old industrial pollution overburden communities in both urban and rural areas. New challenges loom ahead as the industrial renaissance driven by the clean energy transition risks perpetuating a false trade-off between jobs or economic growth and environmental protection. The coast is the cradle of the Gullah/Geechee people, a powerful bulwark in the ever more urgent clash between climate protection and overdevelopment. With its deep history of race relations, Charleston alone adds multiple players and layers of complexity.
SCELP’s vision of environmental protection and justice has long included more citizens, especially from vulnerable communities, aware of their rights and trusting SCELP to represent their interests. SCELP’s environmental justice operations reflect a long-standing commitment to provide communities with top-notch legal support in matters that impact their health and their environment.
SCELP 2022-2026 Strategic Plan directs us to counter environmental inequities in frontline communities and carry forward SCELP’s original motto “no case is too small” whenever a vulnerable community seeks assistance in our areas of expertise.
We hope you will join our efforts to advance environmental justice across South Carolina.
On behalf of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition, we are seeking to intervene in a developer's appeal of the Beaufort County Planning Commission's decision to deny its request to construct three golf courses in conjunction with a gated community resort on St. Helena Island. SCELP is committed to advocating on behalf of the Gullah/Geechee people and culture.
The Ten Mile community, a historic African American settlement community, is located in Charleston County. We are working with the Ten Mile Neighborhood Association to fight over-development that threatens environmental and cultural resources.
Access to safe, affordable and reliable drinking water is a basic human right, indispensable to sustaining healthy livelihoods and maintaining people’s dignity. It is also an increasingly urgent environmental protection and justice issue in South Carolina.
On behalf of Friends of Gadsden Creek, we are challenging DHEC’s authorization to fill and destroy one of the last tidal creeks on the Charleston peninsula for a mixed-use development.
The Bramlett site, a former Manufactured Gas Plant located in Greenville's Southernside community, is leaking dangerous pollutants into the Reedy River and surrounding wetlands. Immediate cleanup is needed.
On behalf of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, we submitted comments objecting to Dominion Energy’s application for a permit to install a 14.5-mile gas main pipeline through Florence County.
The landfill at issue in this case was proposed by MRR Highway 92, LLC, a North Carolina company, and would have been located in the town of Gray Court, a small community in Laurens County. SCELP represented an ad hoc group called Engaging and Guarding Laurens County’s Environment (“EAGLE”).
In rural Marlboro County – one of the state’s poorest, and one which generates very little waste – MRR sought permits to construct a brand new mega-dump that would have accepted hundreds of thousands of tons of out-of-state waste. Working with Citizens for Marlboro County, we advocated successfully against the new landfill, and then we successfully defended them against a baseless retaliatory lawsuit filed by MRR.
C & D Management Company applied for and obtained a permit to construct a construction and demolition waste landfill in the City of Rock Hill.
After over 15 years of legal proceedings, in 2000 SCELP finally won the Sierra Club's appeal of the permit for the hazardous waste landfill located on the shores of Lake Marion in Sumter County, and the landfill has since been shut down.
For over seven years SCELP pursued a citizen suit seeking penalties and correction of more than one thousand violations of the Clean Water Act involving excess discharges of mercury and other toxic substances into the North Tyger River from a hazardous waste incinerator in Spartanburg County. The battle went all the way to the United States Supreme Court before we eventually prevailed, and the incinerator shut its doors.