NC sues EPA over air emissions rules

Posted January 10, 2014

Nitrogen oxide from coal-fired power plants account for about half of ozone-forming emissions, according to state officials.(WRAL-TV5 News)

— 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.”


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  • dahill001 Jan 15, 2014

    They got the title wrong, it should read Koch Brothers, through Art Pope, through McCrony, through the hack of a Secretary Skvarla sue the EPA.

  • Hubris Jan 14, 2014

    "The EPA now says it plans to use a 2010 baseline instead for required reductions in emissions."

    A play right out of the Obama playbook. Change the rules and the laws in the middle of the game.

  • Rebelyell55 Jan 14, 2014

    I can't understand why they're wasting tax dollars to fight the feds, since they're sure to lose. If anything from what I've read we're ahead of the game here in NC, so it should cost NC as much as other states to put regulation into effect.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jan 13, 2014

    Thank you, Right Wingers for finally asking some science-like questions...for starting down the path of critical thinking. Can you keep it up now and use it consistently?

    I mean, after reading some of the comments here, some folks still probably believe that cigarette smoking doesn't cause cancer, because there's not enough "verifiable evidence"...or that 98% of Climate Scientists are wrong about the climate...or that fracking doesn't cause earthquakes or water pollution...yadda yadda.

    If everyone relied on science and critical thinking more, we wouldn't be in messes that we are...and we certainly wouldn't be poisoning the air breathe or the water that we drink.

  • dwntwnboy2 Jan 13, 2014

    So NC wants to use 35-almost 40 yr old science while the EPA wants to use science that is less than 5 years old. Let's go with the newer numbers as science and the environment have changed drastically in that time period. Clean air and water are important- just ask the folks in West Va.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jan 13, 2014

    Let private companies pollute all that they want. They will self-regulate.

    (sarcasm also known as the Republican Mantra)

  • goldeagle Jan 13, 2014

    Is there a reference available that summarizes what the issue is about? Not the state's side of it, an unbiased summary, in a national context.

    Air pollution control can be a rather complex subject and many of the comments are off base.

    There have been emissions trading schemes implemented in which the government allows the market to decide where emissions can be reduced in the most cost efficient manner with a goal of nationwide reduction. Imperfect, but it probably produces an appropriate driving force.

    Are the emissions targeted to reduce pollutants in a specific geographical area?
    What specific emissions are being targeted?
    Is the Obama administration attempting to kill coal fired power plants?
    How do our rules compare with rules written for more polluted areas?

    The political leaders may be doing what they wish, but I believe the Office of Air Quality Planning Standards is in RTP. Or at least used to be. If it still is, the state's concern's probably can't help but be noticed.

  • humm61 Jan 12, 2014

    And how convenient that we have the biggest do-nothing Congress in the history of the nation that is owned lock, stock and barrel by businesses busy polluting - while writing their own "rules".

  • Alex25 Jan 11, 2014

    EPA needs to be downsized - BIG TIME.

  • mep Jan 10, 2014

    The EPA was never intended to have the authority to set its own regulations on the nation... those are the responsibility of Congress. The EPA is only an enforcement organization.