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NC wants no more TN smog


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N.C. wants no more of smog from Tennessee

Federal help is asked to make states clean up

Smog belching from Tennessee's aging coal-fired power plants is damaging the health and economy of its neighbors in North Carolina, according to that state's attorney general, who's asking the federal government to intervene.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to force Tennessee and 12 other states to clean up pollution from their power plants and blames out-of-state polluters for his state's inability to meet federal clean air standards.

''We in North Carolina are cleaning up our air, but we believe our neighboring states need to do it, too,'' Cooper said at a news conference held yesterday at Reedy Creek Nature Park north of Charlotte.

The Tennessee attorney general's office was caught off guard by the action and was in the process of scheduling a meeting with North Carolina officials, said Leigh Ann Jones, chief of staff for state Attorney General Paul Summers. Jones said her office had not yet seen the petition and said she didn't know how Summers would respond.

In a letter sent this month to the North Carolina attorney general, Summers wrote that he hoped the issues could be resolved in a ''collaborative and cooperative manner.''

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a critic of the Bush administration's clean air policies, said that he was not surprised by the petition and thought North Carolina had ''a pretty good case.'' The senator made the comments yesterday in a recorded interview posted on the Senate Republican Conference's Web site.

Ultimately, Alexander, who is chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, said he hoped the petition would force the EPA to enforce stricter air pollution rules.

''Tennessee, obviously, produces too much air pollution because of our coal-fired power plants,'' he said in the interview. ''But Tennessee also has a good case against states to the north, like Ohio, and to the south, like Georgia.''

EPA spokesman Cynthia Bergman said the problem goes beyond North Carolina and that many states are struggling with air pollution from neighboring states.

That will be addressed by the EPA later this year, she said, when the agency finalizes its Interstate Air Quality rule, ''which will result in the deepest cuts in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions in more than a decade.''

These chemicals are produced by coal-fired power plants. In Tennessee and six other states served by the Tennessee Valley Authority, more than 60% of the electricity distributed is generated by coal-fired power plants, TVA officials have said.

Cooper said his petition would force the EPA to determine whether the power plants in the targeted states are significantly contributing to North Carolina's difficulty in meeting or maintaining clean air standards for particulate matter and ozone. More than 20 of North Carolina's 100 counties have failed to meet national air-quality standards.

Past studies have indicated that plants in Georgia, Maryland, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia contribute significant ozone pollution to North Carolina's air.

Will Callaway, executive director of the Tennessee Environmental Council, said it's difficult to assign specific blame to any one state for pollution affecting North Carolina. ''It will take a reduction in air pollution from all sources in all regions for us to reach clean air compliance,'' he said.

Other states named in the petition are Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

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Our biggest source of smog was the Mid-west but now with the Big Dig we have seen a huge (hopefully temporary) increase in air pollution because of all the construction vehicles. I can see it quite clearly in some of the panoramas I have taken recently.

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Do they have to get their cars tested for emissions or something?

I don't think it's required in Tennessee, just safety (tail lights, horn, etc.). Like I said, I could be wrong on this, but I think it's not required.

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