Air Quality Accomplishments

Historical summary of clean air initiatives over the years.

  • Clean Smokestacks Bill -- The 2002 General Assembly passed legislation (SB 1078), signed by Governor Mike Easley, that requires a 77% reduction in utility NOx emissions by 2009, year-round. The bill also would require substantial reductions in sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions, the primary cause of haze, acid rain and fine particles. Power plants would have to cut their SO2 emissions about 50% by 2009 and 73% by 2013. Finally, the bill calls for a study of mercury and carbon dioxide emissions in North Carolina.
  • Clean Air Plan -- In 1998, North Carolina developed a comprehensive Clean Air Plan for protecting public health, the environment and jobs. The plan is primarily aimed reducing ozone air pollution in North Carolina, including substantial reductions in utility emissions and measures to cut exhaust from motor vehicles.
  • Other Clean Air Legislation -- The General Assembly approved legislation in 1999 and 2000 enacting a major portion of the Clean Air Plan. The legislation is aimed at reducing car and truck emissions, a major contributor to ozone smog. It requires the use of cleaner-burning, low-sulfur gasoline statewide starting in 2006, enhances and expands the motor vehicle emissions testing program from 9 counties now to 48 counties by January 2006, provides more incentives for alternative fuel vehicles, and increases funding for rail and mass transit.
  • Other Power Plant Controls -- The N.C. Environmental Management (EMC) adopted rules in 2001 that require coal-fired electric power plants and other large industrial sources to reduce their emissions of ozone-forming pollution by 68 percent between 2000 and 2006. The rules should make North Carolina fully compliant with a federal mandate requiring substantial reductions in emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), the main cause of ozone pollution.
  • Governors' Summit on Air Quality -- Gov. Mike Easley hosted a multi-state summit on air quality on May 10, 2002, in Charlotte. The summit was aimed at developing regional solutions to ozone pollution, haze, acid rain and other air quality problems in the Southeast. North Carolina hosted the first summit in 1999 under former Gov. Jim Hunt, with subsequent summits held in Georgia in 2000 and Tennessee in 2001.
  • Animal Odor Rules -- On March 1, 1999, the Division of Air Quality began enforcing one of the nation's first comprehensive programs for controlling odors from animal operations. The rules primarily affect hog farms, but can apply to any livestock operation using a wet waste treatment disposal such as lagoons and sprayfields.
  • Class I Areas -- In April 1999, North Carolina and Tennessee signed an agreement aimed at ensuring that new industrial air emissions do not degrade air quality in the Great Smoky Mountains and other pristine natural areas. The Permitting Procedures Document for Class I Areas, or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), establishes formal procedures for reviewing permit applications for new or expanded utilities and other large industries.
  • Air Awareness/ Ozone Action Program -- The Division of Air Quality and local air agencies conduct the Air Awareness/ Ozone Action program in six metropolitan areas -- Charlotte, the Triangle, Triad, Asheville, Hickory and Fayetteville. The program aims to increase public awareness about air quality problems through ozone forecasts and other activities, while motivating individuals and businesses to take actions (such as car-pooling) that help reduce levels of ozone and other air pollutants.
  • Air Quality Monitoring -- North Carolina has expanded its air quality monitoring network by adding 36 sites for measuring fine particulates (dust) under a new health-based standard that the EPA adopted in 1997. The state has about 190 monitors statewide for measuring various air pollutants, including 45 ozone monitoring sites -- more than any other Southeastern state except Florida.
  • Asphalt Plants -- The Division of Air Quality has significantly strengthened its permit review process for asphalt plants by requiring analyses of toxic air emissions for all new, expanded or relocated facilities. These toxics reviews include evaluations of emissions from the facilities' main stacks as well as fugitive sources, such as asphalt storage and loading areas.
  • Air Toxics Rules -- The state Environmental Management Commission, upon DENR's recommendation, denied an industry-backed request to exempt facilities from the state air toxics rules if they also have to comply with federal toxics rules. If approved, the request would have removed about 300 of the largest air pollution sources from the state toxics program, which sets health-based limits for 105 toxic air pollutants.
  • Open Burning -- The Division of Air Quality has taken a number of steps to increase public awareness about the state Open Burning Rule, which prohibits outdoor burning in many cases. Efforts include a new Spanish-language open burning brochure, newspaper ads paid for by violators, and radio ads broadcast across the state.
  • Atmospheric Deposition - North Carolina is developing a new rule for controlling nitrogen deposition from hog operations, based on a comprehensive and on-going study examining the role of animal operations in contributing nitrogen compounds to the air and the effects these compounds could have on streams and coastal waters. The study is a joint research study by the Division of Air Quality and N.C. State University.

Additional information can be found on the Air Quality Legislation Page.