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Environmental panel debates need for state air regulations
Thursday, 29 September 2011 05:16

(RALEIGH) -- Does North Carolina need environmental protections that are tougher than federal rules in order to protect its air quality? That’s one of the issues the Environmental Review Commission is trying to examine.

Lawmakers pressed state environmental officials about the need for North Carolina’s additional regulations aimed at protecting air quality. Several Republicans argued that existing federal rules already provide adequate protection.
 
“North Carolina goes way beyond what other states around us do and that hurts us competitively as far as business goes,” said Rep. Mitch Gillespie, R-McDowell.
 
Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg, said she’s heard from businesses that state rules can sometimes create an unnecessary burden. “The health of the community is both economical health and physical health,” said Rep. Ruth Samuelson. “Somehow or another we have to balance the two without giving disproportionate emphasis on one or the other.”
 
But Division of Air Quality director Sheila Holman noted the benefits of regulating toxic air pollutants at the state level, such as addressing health concerns or giving businesses flexibility to manage how pollution issues are resolved. Holman also told the panel that 38 million pounds of toxic air pollutants are emitted annually in North Carolina. However, many Republicans seemed skeptical of Holman’s presentation and asked her to submit further details to back up her claims.
 
“I know there’s not 38 million pounds of air toxins in the air,” said Gillespie. “That just seems unreasonable to me.”
 
N.C. Sierra Club lobbyist Will Morgan said air quality issues need to be studied seriously before any changes are made. “In some environmental issues….if you tip the scales too far, you might lose some trees or some sand on the beach,” he added. “But if you tip the scales too far in this case, you’re going to put people’s health at risk.”
 
The panel is expected to continue study the state’s air toxic program at its next meeting.

Last Updated on Sunday, 02 October 2011 19:00
 
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