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North Carolina Air Quality Regulations on Chopping Block

PHOTO: While some say North Carolina's air quality has improved, others argue it remains unhealthy. House lawmakers are considering a legislative reform package which includes provisions that environmental groups say would abandon progress on air quality in the state. Photo credit: Dana Lane/Flickr.
PHOTO: While some say North Carolina's air quality has improved, others argue it remains unhealthy. House lawmakers are considering a legislative reform package which includes provisions that environmental groups say would abandon progress on air quality in the state. Photo credit: Dana Lane/Flickr.

July 14, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. – Regulatory reform legislation is a top agenda item for North Carolina House lawmakers as they return to work this week.

H.B. 765 began as a gravel transportation bill, but now encompasses a variety of statewide issues, including measures some say would threaten air quality.

Terry Lansdell, program coordinator with Clean Air Carolina, says pollution standards, regulations and monitoring are all on the chopping block.

"There's been a systematic reduction in air quality monitors across the state, which we need to stop," he says. "If we don't have monitors, we don't really know how clean or how dirty our air is. Removing these monitors has been kind of the task for a specific group within the general assembly over the past couple years."

Supporters say reform measures are needed to improve North Carolina's economy and help business. The bill was passed by the Senate, and House legislators could vote on it as soon as today.

The Department of Environmental and Natural Resources has already closed dozens of monitors and contends they are no longer needed because air quality has improved in the state over the last 10 years.

Lansdell argues the progress made limiting the environmental impact of industry should not be abandoned.

"Businesses find a way to succeed, and businesses are thriving in North Carolina under this regulatory environment and protecting the environment as they produce goods and services," he says. "We can't throw away these regulations, because our air in North Carolina is not healthy."

According to Clean Air Carolina, the state ranked eighth nationally in 2012 for high levels of toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected North Carolina's challenge to federal standards that protect citizens from increases in fine particle pollution.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - NC