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Editorial: A win for clean air in N.C.

Times-News of Hendersonville
North Carolina’s federal court victory requiring the TVA to reduce emissions from its dirtiest coal plants is not only good for folks in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s an important precedent that could force Congress and federal regulators to address the issue of pollution that crosses state lines.
“This certainly is a groundbreaking case and one that is important for the health and economy for our state,” North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said. “Many people will also view this as a positive step nationally because it holds a public utility accountable for its pollution.”
The case is a big victory for North Carolina, and nowhere bigger than here in the mountains. Clean air is critical not only to our physical health; it’s crucial to our economic health. Beautiful mountain views don’t mean much if can’t see through the air.
The N.C. Legislature has been ahead of other states in regulating smokestack pollution from coal plants. But it has always seemed an empty victory because N.C. law stopped at the state line.
Against plenty of skeptics who doubted that he would prevail, Cooper sued the Tennessee Valley Authority over the pollution drifting eastward. On Jan. 13, federal Judge Lacy Thornburg ordered the TVA to speed up efforts to clean emissions from four coal plants upwind of the N.C. mountains.
Thornburg turned down Cooper’s request to add controls and caps at seven other plants cited in the lawsuit, saying the state failed to prove emissions from those stacks hurt the state’s air quality.
The TVA said it has already spent some $4.8 billion to improve air quality and emissions, and has another $1 billion in the works and plans for $3 billion more in the next decade. That’s good news. It means the utility can speed up work it already has in the pipeline and does not have to work from scratch to reduce the pollution.
North Carolina’s lawsuit could prove to be the catalyst for a much needed national policy that cleans up the air and puts utilities on a level playing field.
“This court ruling shows it is time to revisit the Clean Air Act on both the regulatory and legislative fronts,” said Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety.
TVA ratepayers will likely bear the cost of the pollution controls but they will also benefit from cleaner air. North Carolinians should look forward now to cleaner air in the mountains, and the ability to promote the good health and beauty the Blue Ridge has boasted.

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