So let’s say you live in Dukeville (a community in Salisbury, NC) and you cannot drink your well water because it has been contaminated with heavy metals from coal ash waste. The NC government is not doing much, other than to say “Don’t Drink Your Water.” The US government is also stalling on forcing Duke Energy to clean up the mess.

What can a citizen do if state and federal authorities—charged with enforcing safe drinking water standards or other laws—neglect to do their job?  This is where the power of the judicial branch becomes so important in environmental protection.  Citizens, and nonprofit organizations working on their behalf, can sue the government for its failure to adhere to the law.

On many occasions, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) has done just that. Through the court system, SELC has forced Duke Energy to launch cleanup at eight coal ash waste sites. Ongoing court cases aim to address more than ten other sites. SELC is also in court to halt the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, to fight against offshore drilling, to safeguard southern forests from excessive timber sales and road construction, and to respond to the unlawful actions of the Trump administration.

For over 30 years, SELC has worked on these and many other issues throughout the Southeast. They are among the most effective and successful advocates in our region. Like most environmental groups, they rely on private citizen support to do their work. Please check out their website to learn more about their many successes, and to become part of this important mission.