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AG Cooper challenges EPA rule on out-of-state air pollution

Release date: 7/11/2005

For immediate release Contact: Noelle Talley

Date: July 11, 2005 Phone: 919/716-6413

AG Cooper challenges EPA rule on out-of-state air pollution

EPA’s Clean Air Interstate Rule could allow neighboring states to keep polluting NC

Raleigh: North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper is challenging two parts of a federal rule that could allow neighboring states to continue polluting North Carolina’s air.

Cooper filed challenges to portions of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) on Friday by filing a lawsuit in the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and by filing a petition for reconsideration with the EPA.

“While we generally support EPA’s new standards to clean our air, we fear that loopholes in this Rule will give power plants in other states the ability to send additional pollution our way,” Cooper said. “By making these challenges, we hope to keep North Carolina’s own clean air standards working.”

While the CAIR rule aims to significantly reduce the emission of fine particle and ozone forming chemicals—common ingredients in air pollution—from upwind power plants, the EPA made some determinations that could undermine benefits for North Carolina, Cooper said.

Specifically, Cooper and his environmental lawyers are concerned about the following issues:

• That the EPA’s use of early reduction credits could mean that actual pollution reductions will not occur when scheduled in 2015.
• That the rule’s emission allowance-trading program has no method to balance trading of pollution allowances, by which sources in a particular region or state avoid reducing emissions by buying a large number of allowances. This could lead to local areas where pollution remains a problem, sometimes called “hot spots,” in a downwind state such as North Carolina.
• That the rule ignores the fact that North Carolina currently is not attaining the ozone air quality standard and, based on predictions of future air quality, concludes that upwind power plants are not contributing to North Carolina’s ozone non-attainment problems.
• That the final rule compounds this problem by failing to provide North Carolina protection against upwind emissions that interfere with North Carolina’s maintenance of the ozone standard in the future, even though even EPA’s own predictions are that Mecklenburg and Rowan Counties will only just be attaining the ozone standard in 2010.

One result of this rule is that the final CAIR rule does not require an ozone season emission cap for oxides of nitrogen (NOX) — a pollutant that contributes to both ozone and particulate matter pollution — from power plants in Georgia. In contrast, all of the NOX reductions required by North Carolina’s Clean Smokestacks Act will be fully implemented by 2009.

“It’s particularly unfair to North Carolina that power plants in Georgia will be given a break on the summertime ozone reductions simply because North Carolina has done a good job in reducing its own emissions,” Cooper said.

Cooper argues that out-of-state polluters are interfering with 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. North Carolina’s law, approved in June, 2002, is stricter than federal restrictions on power plant emissions and requires the state’s 14 largest coal-fired power plants to reduce some harmful emissions. Cooper has encouraged other states to look to the North Carolina law as a model for cleaning up their own emissions.