North Carolina Department of Justice
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TVA must stop polluting NC's air, says AG Cooper

Release date: 11/15/2004

Raleigh: Attorney General Roy Cooper informed the Tennessee Valley Authority that North Carolina intends to take legal action to force coal-fired power plants operated by TVA to comply with federal law and reduce pollutants that dirty North Carolina’s air.

In a letter written last week to TVA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and environmental administrators in Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama, Cooper notified them that he plans to file suit in federal district court, if the TVA will not agree to significantly reduce pollution that is harmful to North Carolinians.

“Pollution ignores state boundaries, so we all have to do our part to make sure the air is clean,” said Cooper.

Cooper points out that several TVA plants have been shown by the EPA “to contribute significantly to air quality problems in North Carolina, resulting in adverse consequences to the health and welfare of the citizens of this State. For this reason, North Carolina has a compelling interest in ensuring that these plants have complied, and continue to comply, with the Clean Air Act.”

Cooper alleges that TVA violated New Source Review provisions of the federal Clean Air Act by modifying several of its coal-fired power plants without determining whether additional emission controls are necessary or installing the best available technology to control dirty air created by the plants. The letter cites nine TVA plants located in Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky.

In the letter, Cooper cited North Carolina’s Clean Smokestacks Act, which he has long encouraged other states to use as a model. “By its enactment in 2002 of the Clean Smokestacks Act, North Carolina publicly committed to dramatic reductions in emissions from coal-fired power plants. The State also was directed to aggressively pursue emissions reductions from out-of-state plants that are adversely affecting our air quality.”

In March of this year, Cooper filed a petition under Section 126 of the Clean Air Act, asking the federal government to force coal-fired power plants in thirteen other states, including Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama, to cut down on pollution they are contributing to North Carolina.

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 waterways. The law requires the state’s 14 largest coal-fired power plants to reduce harmful emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury. These pollutants in the air degrade our water and soil, damage farmers’ crops, and hurt the state’s forests, rivers and lakes. In addition, they cause haze and reduce visibility, especially in the North Carolina mountains where vistas are an important draw for the state’s $12 billion-a-year tourism industry. Dirty air also costs people and businesses in increased doctor and hospital visits, higher health insurance costs and lost productivity due to illness.

North Carolina’s law is stricter than federal restrictions on power plant emissions. The federal approach relies on a cap and trade system that allows utilities to buy and sell pollution credits and requires power plants to cut back emissions only during the peak of the ozone season, April through October.