Hot temperatures, crowded streets and factory pollution all contribute to North Carolina's bad air. Last year, state leaders tried to clear the air by cleaning car emissions.
Legislatorsare now focusing on another culprit -- the state's 14 coal-fired electric power plants. Those facilities account for about half of the state's ozone-forming emissions, said Bill Holman, secretary of theN.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The power plants produce nitrogen oxides, which contribute to ozone pollution in the state. TheN.C. Environmental Management Commissionhas proposed rules that would adopt stricter controls on nitrogen oxides from coal-fired facilities.
The state is calling on utilities to reduce emissions by at least 50 percent, but the number may go as high as 70 percent. The cost of that change could be passed on to consumers.
TheU.S. Environmental Protection Agencyestimates that consumers may have to pay an extra $10 to $15 per year to fund the changes at the plants.
CP&L'sMike Hughes said his company estimates the changes at its coal-fired plants would cost about $320 million. He said CP&L has not determined how much of that cost would be passed on to its customers.
State utility companies are asking lawmakers to instate a 35 percent emissions reduction until there is proof that further reductions would make a difference.
"Nobody wants to just throw hundreds of millions of dollars at this issue and not have it result in cleaner air," Hughes said.
Customers can sound off about the proposed emissions controls at aseries of public hearings, held across the state in July.
The first meeting takes place Wednesday at 7 p.m. in downtown Raleigh at theArchdale Buildingon North Salisbury Street.
A final decision should be made by the end of the year.