North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
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AG Cooper puts states polluting NC's air on notice

Release date: 3/4/2004


Letters from Cooper promising action on clean air go out to six other AGs

Raleigh: Other states must cut down on pollution that is dirtying North Carolina’s air, Attorney General Roy Cooper wrote to attorneys general in six states this week.

“Numerous studies show that North Carolina received transported pollution from several other states, including your state,” Cooper wrote in letters to attorneys general in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan and Pennsylvania. “Clean air is essential to our health and important to our economy. We cannot wait unduly for improvements to be undertaken elsewhere.”

This week’s letters are highly similar to letters Cooper wrote to seven other states in December: Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Cooper’s letters indicate that his office is preparing 126 petitions against sources of pollution in upwind states. Under Section 126 of the Clean Air Act, North Carolina can petition the US Environmental Protection Agency to stop out-of-state polluters from interfering with the state’s ability to meet air quality standards. Cooper’s letters point to evidence that upwind polluters are causing North Carolina to violate acceptable levels for ozone and fine particulate matter.

In the letters, Cooper touts North Carolina’s Clean Smokestacks Act, which he has encouraged other states to use as a model. “By enacting the Clean Smokestacks Act, North Carolina took responsibility for doing what is needed to clean its own air with emissions levels that are more stringent than required by the federal Clean Air Act,” Cooper wrote. “However, our legislature properly recognized that air pollution does not respect state boundaries.”

Cooper also cites Section 10 of Clean Smokestacks, which directs him to “use all available resources and means” including “litigation to induce other states…to achieve reductions in emissions.”

Approved by the General Assembly and Governor Easley in June 2002, Clean Smokestacks is expected to lead to fewer cases of lung disease and asthma, less smog and acid rain, and lower mercury levels in the state’s lakes and rivers. The law requires the state’s 14 largest coal-fired power plants to reduce harmful emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury.

Other states instead use the federal approach, which relies on a system of pollution credits that can be bought and sold by utilities. It requires power plants to cut back emissions only during the peak of the ozone season, April through October.