Coal-fired plants likeCP&L's Cape Fear plantin Chatham County produce nearly half of the company's electricity.
Fourteen those coal-fired plants across the state are also blamed for about half of North Carolina's nitrogen oxide emissions -- the prime ingredient in ozone pollution and the prime target of the federal government to clear the air.
"If we don't do it, the EPA is going to come in and do it for us," says Tom Mather of the N.C. Division of Air Quality.
Mather says while state leaders have alreadypassed legislationto require cleaner burning fuels and increase car emission testing, the EPA still demands that industrial emissions be reduced by 69 percent by 2007.
"Basically, we're under a mandate to have these rules in place by October. North Carolina is not alone. There are 21 other states affected and we don't have a lot of leeway there," says Mather.
CP&L'sMike Hughes points out his company has already cut emissions by 45 percent in the past five years.
"Our goal throughout this has been to ensure that we put the right controls in the right locations at the right time," he says.
Hughes argues pushing industry too far, too fast, will cost money and production time when plants are shut down to install new emissions equipment.
"That obviously has some negative implication for electrical reliability during that time," he says.
In hearings over the summer, the Division of Air Quality received thousands of comments, 97 percent of which favor the tougher standards.
The vote is scheduled for Thursday morning.