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NC Breathes Easier: EPA Tightens Limits on Air Pollution

July 13, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. - People living downwind from North Carolina power plants could be breathing cleaner air starting in 2014, thanks to a new rule from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule reduces the amount of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution that power plants in 27 eastern states are allowed to emit.

Michael Regan, Environmental Defense Fund's director of energy efficiency, explains that the law targets eastern states because of their size and close proximity.

"There's an exorbitant amount of pollution that comes from neighboring states. When an individual state attempts to achieve air-quality goals, it can only do but so much."

The new, tougher standards will save the lives of an estimated 1,900 or more North Carolinians annually, Regan says, by easing the health complications of these dangerous pollutants.

The Environmental Defense Fund says the benefits of cleaner air to the state are worth about $16 billion. The new rule's health benefits are significant, Regan says, as is the economic upside for North Carolina.

"These pollutants impact not only public health but impact our tourism, which impacts the state's economic drivers. And you think about the citizens, the state and businesses. This is a 'win-win-win' for North Carolina."

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution from power plants are believed to cause damage to the earth's ozone layer, Regan says.

More details on the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule are online at

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC