NC Lawmakers Consider Cutting Toxic Air Rules
Jobs or toxic air pollution. The either-or choice isn’t quite that stark, but the North Carolina General Assembly is closing in on cutting back a clean-air law that supporters credit with cutting two-thirds of the nasty airborne chemicals over a decade.
Legislation that passed the House last week would pare back state regulation of toxic industrial chemicals like ammonia and sulfuric acid released into the air. A Senate vote hasn’t been scheduled.
The state airborne toxics law allows regulators to consider the health risks to a community near a polluting plant, while federal rules set a pollution standard that varies depending on the industry. Generally, companies subject to the federal requirements meet them if they use the best available technology for their emissions.
The legislative change would affect less than 10 percent of the 2,700 plants with air quality permits that are subject to both state and federal toxic rules, according to data compiled last year. Exemptions from the state program would primarily go to power plants, paper mills and chemical manufacturers.
Despite that, the jobs-versus-environment dichotomy has made the issue of whether to pull back on state regulations one of the most partisan and most animated in this year’s legislative session.