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North Carolina needs action on clean air now, AG Cooper tells EPA

Release date: 9/14/2005

Raleigh: Attorney General Roy Cooper today urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stop air pollution from other states that is harming North Carolina and its people, economy and environment.

“The people of North Carolina have been swift and smart in the work to clean up our own air,” Cooper said. “But dirty air from neighboring states keeps blowing across the border, choking our lungs and our economy.”

Speaking at a hearing today in Research Triangle Park, Cooper said that EPA should grant the state’s petition because out-of-state pollution is damaging the air that North Carolinians breathe and preventing the state from meeting clean air standards. Cooper filed the petition under Section 126 of the Clean Air Act in March of 2004, asking the federal government to force coal fired power plants in thirteen other states to cut down on pollution they are contributing to North Carolina.

While North Carolina through its landmark Clean Smokestacks Act has taken steps to cut in-state emissions, dirty air from other states continues to keep North Carolina from meeting clean air standards. North Carolina’s efforts have excused other states from cleaning up their air, Cooper testified, pointing to a need for EPA to step in and require steep reductions in emissions by the polluters cited in the state’s petition.

Cooper also pointed out that while EPA’s response to North Carolina’s petition was a significant step forward, it won’t completely solve the state’s current air quality problems. The EPA proposes that the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) will improve future air quality in North Carolina.

“A future fix falls short,” Cooper told the EPA. “We need action now to stop out-of-state polluters from dirtying our air.” He urged the EPA to implement CAIR and fully grant the petition so that North Carolina can get relief from air pollution both now and for the future.

Cooper is also seeking the EPA’s assurance that North Carolina will see real reductions in dirty air coming into the state. While the Clean Smokestacks Act requires actual cuts in harmful emissions from in-state coal-fired power plants, CAIR proposes to cut emissions through trading. “Unchecked trading could create hotspots—places where the air actually gets worse instead of better,” Cooper told the EPA.

Cooper was joined at the hearing by William Ross, Secretary of the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Lynn Minges, Executive Director of the Division of Tourism in the NC Department of Commerce, and Dr. Leah Devlin, State Health Director

According to North Carolina’s 126 petition, air quality in many parts of the state as measured by NC DENR at times either fails to meet national standards for particulate matter and ozone or has difficulty meeting them. These pollutants are formed mostly from sulfur dioxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) produced mainly by coal fired electric power plants. The petition identified plants in thirteen states as contributing pollution to North Carolina.