Senate Passes Easley's Clean Smokestacks Bill
Legislation Goes to Governor for Signature
RALEIGH, N.C. - The North Carolina Senate today overwhelmingly passed Gov. Mike Easley's Clean Smokestacks bill, which will substantially cut the state's coal-fired power plants emissions of multiple air pollutants that cause smog, haze and other pollution problems.
"This bill will dramatically reduce air pollution in North Carolina without increasing rates for consumers," said Easley. "It will benefit the health of our people by reducing lung disease and asthma and benefit our environment by reducing smog and acid rain. I hope that our action on the state level will serve as a model for other states and for Washington as we all look for ways to improve air quality in the Southeast and across the country. I look forward to signing this bill into law."
The Senate, which approved an earlier version of the Clean Smokestacks bill (SB 1078) last year, concurred with a revised bill approved by the House Wednesday.
Under the legislation, North Carolina¿s 14 coal-fired power plants will reduce their emissions of key pollutants responsible for the ozone, which are unhealthy to breathe and damages trees and crops; fine particles, which are unhealthy to breathe and cause haze that obscures scenic views and harm tourism; and acid rain, which is harmful to aquatic life, forests and soils. In particular, the legislation will require power plants to reduce:
- Nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from 245,000 tons in 1998 to 56,000 tons by 2009 (78 percent). NOx is the main cause of ozone and contributes to acid rain and haze.
- Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from 489,000 tons in 1998 to 250,000 tons by 2009 (49 percent) and 130,000 tons by 2013 (74 percent). SO2 is the main cause of fine particles, haze and acid rain.
In addition, the legislation requires the N.C. Division of Air Quality to conduct a study of mercury and carbon dioxide emissions in the state. As an added benefit, the equipment needed to reduce SO2 emissions is expected to cut mercury emissions by about half. Airborne mercury eventually ends up in streams and lakes where it can accumulate in certain kinds of fish, making them unsafe to eat. Utility companies will be required to cut their emissions year-round at power plants within North Carolina. The legislation differs from federal rules, which only apply during the ozone season (April through October), and allows utilities to buy or trade pollution credits from other states instead of cutting air pollution from plants in North Carolina.
The legislation will yield important health benefits for citizens of North Carolina and other states by significantly reducing pollution events that can trigger asthma and other respiratory problems. The cuts in both SO2 and NOx emissions are expected to reduce acid rain and serve as a significant step toward meeting the new federal fine particle and ozone standards in North Carolina. The cuts also will help improve visibility in the mountains and other scenic areas.
The measure complements other recent efforts that have focused on emissions from motor vehicles. In 1999, the General Assembly adopted legislation expands and enhances the auto emissions testing program, requires cleaner burning fuel for cars and trucks, provides incentives for alternative-fuel vehicles, and boosts funding for rail and mass transit.
For additional information about air issues, visit the Division of Air Quality's web site athttp://daq.state.nc.us.