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This Week, EPA Takes On Carbon Polluters

March 12, 2012

RALEIGH, N.C. - Smog and carbon pollution from power plants and their effects on health are hot-button issues with politicians, lobbyists and scientists these days. They are expected to heat up even more in Washington, D.C., this week when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to release new rules for coal-burning power plants that limit the amount of pollution new facilities can emit. The news is of particular importance in North Carolina, where Duke Energy is nearing the September completion date for its Cliffside coal-fired plant.

Glen Besa with the Sierra Club says carbon pollution creates smog, which has been shown to be a serious public health issue.

"That smog is a principal cause for asthma attacks among children and also for hospital visits among adults who suffer with bronchitis, emphysema, adult asthma or a variety of other lung illnesses."

The Cliffside Plant will produce more than 9.6 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, according to the Sierra Club.

Besa says that while the new standards would likely cut emissions by about 50 percent in new power plants, they would not affect existing plants. This is the first time the EPA has regulated industrial carbon pollution, he adds.

Opponents of the new EPA regulations cite job losses and higher energy prices as their prime concerns. Besa says human and environmental health should come first, adding that a push for more alternative energy sources is expected to create jobs.

The Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council have launched an advertising campaign in Virginia and other key states about the connections between carbon pollution, asthma and related illness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, close to 25 million people live with asthma in the U.S.

Stephanie Carroll Carson/Diane Ronayne, Public News Service - NC