The Southern Environmental Law Center has announced that it is opening an office in Washington, D.C. The public-interest law firm -- which currently has offices in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia -- will be focusing on national legislation that directly affects the South.

The region plays a key role in shaping national energy policy. As SELC points out, if the six southeastern states where it works were an independent country, it would rank seventh in the world for carbon dioxide emissions.

"In many ways, the South will be the 'canary in the coal mine' on environmental issues given the projected growth of southeastern states," says Nat Mund, the office's new legislative director and formerly the deputy legislative director at the League of Conservation Voters. "How we handle and manage environmental issues in the South will have far-reaching implications for the rest of the country."