Strategic priority

Stop the degradation of essential natural systems

South Carolina residents and visitors alike appreciate and value our beaches, mountains, and the unfettered flow of our rivers. They marvel at the hundreds of thousands of acres of wild spaces, including barrier islands, ridges, rolling hills, estuaries, cypress swamps, and upland forests. Yet it takes constant vigilance to protect these life-sustaining natural systems, especially at a time when population growth and the climate crisis are exacerbating the impact of harmful projects and polluting activities

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No Protection Without Justice

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the landmark law enacted in 1972 in response to the declining state 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.

Environmental justice is at its core environmental protection – and the most systemic solution to many environmental problems.

Industrial pollution is still a major problem today simply 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. And 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.

While we may not see rivers catching on fire anymore, the disproportionate burden of pollution and environmental harm on marginalized communities must remain front and center, if we are truly looking for systemic solutions to increasingly daunting challenges of worsening environmental crises and climate change.

Environmental Justice Cases & Issues