Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Toxic pollution program before legislative panel

North Carolina's air quality director was scheduled to appear before a legislative panel this morning to defend an anti-pollution program that legislators tried to gut last summer.

The Republican-led General Assembly was in an anti-regulatory mood this year. Late in the session, a House committee approved a broadly-worded amendment that environmental advocates said would effectively kill what is known as the Air Toxics Program.

The 21-year-old program limits emissions of 97 toxic pollutants that can cause cancer, birth defects and respiratory ailments by making new or expanding industries prove their emissions won't harm people outside the plant's boundaries.

Duke Energy and other industries say the program duplicates federal standards that also set emission limits for major industries. The state program adds little or no additional protection, they say, while costing industries time and money.

The House committee amendment, which has not been enacted by the full legislature, exempted industries that fall under federal standards or use "unadulterated fossil fuels," such as the coal that Duke burns.

"Politicians who reduce or repeal limits on toxic air pollution knowingly increase the risk for all North Carolina residents of cancer and other serious, even deadly, health problems," said Derb Carter of the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Sheila Holman, director of the N.C. Division of Air Quality, was to report to the legislature's Environmental Review Commission in Raleigh this morning.

North Carolina industries released more than 34 million pounds of toxic substances, and nearly 1.5 million pounds of carcinogens, into the air last year, federal reports show.


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