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AG Cooper puts EPA on notice over clean air

Release date: 2/19/2007

Start taking action to fight pollution harming NC or face court, Cooper tells EPA

Raleigh: Attorney General Roy Cooper today put the Environmental Protection Agency on notice that he’ll take action in court if the agency doesn’t move forward to protect North Carolina from out-of-state pollution.

“North Carolina is taking steps to clean up our own air pollution but the EPA is dragging its heels,” said Cooper said. “We’re pushing for action now to stop out-of-state polluters from dirtying our air.”

In a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, Cooper’s office urged the EPA to commit to a schedule by March 1 for taking action on two clean air issues that impact North Carolina or face action in court. A copy of the letter is attached.

North Carolina is asking the EPA to regulate sources of Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) in northern Georgia. NOx is the key ingredient in ozone pollution, also known as smog. More than eight years after the EPA set rules for NOx produced in other states through the NOx SIP Call, the agency has failed to enact rules for northern Georgia despite finding that polluters in that area were contributing dirty air to other parts of the eastern United States including North Carolina.

Cooper is also asking the EPA to move forward with reconsidering North Carolina’s petition to stop pollution in upwind states that harms air quality in North Carolina. In March of 2004, Cooper filed a petition under Section 126 of the Clean Air Act asking the federal government to force coal fired power plants in other states to cut down on pollution they contribute to North Carolina. The EPA denied the petition in March 2006. Cooper asked them to reconsider in June 2006, using EPA’s own data to show that pollution cuts are feasible and cost-effective. Since then, the EPA has failed to act on North Carolina’s petition for reconsideration.

Cooper wants the EPA to commit to a schedule for acting on both of these issues, with final decisions no later than May 15, 2007, or face court orders requiring them to act.

These are the latest steps taken to fight out-of-state polluters that are hurting North Carolina’s ability to meet national air quality standards despite the state’s success at cleaning up in-state pollution under its Clean Smokestacks law. In June of 2006, Cooper filed a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit seeking judicial review of EPA denial of North Carolina’s 126 petition. North Carolina has also filed suit against the EPA in D.C. Circuit Court arguing that parts of CAIR (EPA’s proposed Clean Air Interstate Rule) need to be stronger.

In addition, Cooper filed suit against the Tennessee Valley Authority in January of 2006 seeking to stop pollution from TVA’s coal-fired power plants that harms North Carolina. That case is currently pending in federal district court in Asheville and is scheduled for trial in October 2007. Arguments are also scheduled before the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in late May 2007.