Raleigh, N.C. — The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources has filed a lawsuit against new air quality rules set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The lawsuit, filed Dec. 26 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, claims that a change in the EPA's regulations for particulate matter would unfairly penalize North Carolina.
State Division of Air Quality spokesman Tom Mather said Friday that the state has already made "great strides" in reducing ozone and other particulates since the Clean Smokestacks Act of 2002.
"We achieved all these reductions and passed these laws before the EPA required anyone to do it," Mather said.
But the state based its new regulations on a 1975 baseline that the agency had long used to measure particulate matter. The EPA now says it plans to use a 2010 baseline instead for required reductions in emissions.
Because North Carolina had already reduced its emissions significantly by 2010, Mather says, our baseline pollution level would be lower than that of surrounding states, making further required reductions in coming years more difficult and expensive for North Carolina to meet.
"We’re not getting credit for all these reductions that we achieved," Mather said. "In a sense, we’re being penalized for doing the right thing."
In a letter last August to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, DENR Secretary John Skvarla warned that the change to the 2010 baseline “could place our state at a significant economic disadvantage simply because North Carolina required emission reductions earlier than other states.”
"All we ask the EPA to do is recognize North Carolina’s unique position and reward what we have done," Division of Air Quality Director Sheila Holman said in a statement, "instead of putting us at an economic disadvantage compared to states that have done less.”