The 2002 passage of the North Carolina Clean Smokestacks Act has had ripple effects across the South, and one of the latest is the introduction of a Clean Smokestacks bill in the Virginia state legislature. The legislation was modeled after North Carolina’s landmark air pollution law.
Richmond Republican Delegate John S. Reid introduced the Virginia bill during this year’s legislative session. Reid told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper that he was prompted to introduce the bill after his wife was diagnosed with a lung disease that is made worse by smog. Power plant pollution has been estimated to cause 1,240 deaths, 28,000 asthma attacks, and 246,000 lost workdays every year in Virginia.
As this bill moves forward, supporters have been looking closely to North Carolina and the process that resulted in the passage of that state’s Clean Smokestacks Act. The Virginia version of the bill would affect eight of the state’s dirtiest power plants, reducing emissions of sulfur dioxide by 75 percent and nitrogen oxide by 54 percent by 2015. Mercury would be cut by 67 percent by 2008.
While the Virginia bill was not passed during this session, proponents plan to reintroduce it in the 2005 legislature. In the meantime, Virginia is coming under increasing pressure to reduce its air pollution. On March 18, North Carolina’s attorney general petitioned the EPA to crack down on air pollution coming from Virginia and a dozen other nearby states. This petition has the weight of the Clean Air Act behind it, and it makes North Carolina the first state in the South to join the legal battles for clean air.