This spring, Appalachian Voices’ staff, members and volunteers worked together to achieve an enormous success for clean air in North Carolina and across the Southeast. As a result of those efforts, North Carolina is taking bipartisan strides to help keep big industrial polluters from weakening federal clean air standards and further dirtying our air in the mountains. Together we were able to unite nearly 80% of the North Carolina General Assembly to stand firmly opposed to the federal “Clear Skies Act” and other attempts in Washington to weaken our nation’s clean air laws. As an expression of their support for clean air, sponsors in the state legislature promoted sign-on letter to their colleagues in the North Carolina General Assembly. The letter makes the following request of North Carolina’s Congressional delegation in Washington, DC:
“We urge your support for national legislation that would reduce air pollution to levels comparable to those contained in our own Clean Smokestacks Act, over a similar period of time. At a minimum, please oppose any legislation, such as the proposed ‘Clear Skies Act,’ that would weaken the pollution standards set forth in the 1990 amendments to the federal Clean Air Act, or that would eliminate North Carolina’s authority to seek reductions in pollution originating in upwind states”
This bipartisan effort was announced at a March 1 press conference sponsored by the Appalachian Voices Business League and held at the North Carolina Legislative Building in Raleigh. Speakers at the press conference included a Republican and Democrat from North Carolina’s House and Senate, as well as three prominent state business leaders. In addition, Appalachian Voices’ executive director Mary Anne Hitt presented over 300 letters signed by North Carolina business owners calling on the state’s two US Senators, Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr, to oppose any weakening of the Clean Air Act.
The General Assembly sign-on letter that was announced at the press conference went on to receive overwhelming bipartisan sponsorship in both houses. Appalachian Voices, with help from Representative Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), gathered the signatures of 74% of state Representatives. With the help of Senator John Garwood (R-Wilkes) and Senator Martin Nesbitt (D-Buncombe), we garnered signatures from an astonishing 90% of members of the state Senate. The letter was sent to North Carolina’s congressional delegation on April 21, 2005.
Appalachian Voices would like to thank the elected officials who signed on to the letter for helping to protect the citizens and economy of North Carolina from the damaging effects of air pollution. We urge Senators Dole and Burr to heed this message from their constituents and colleagues by standing firmly for clean air, and against the inappropriately named Clear Skies Act, or any other attempt to weaken federal clean air laws.
Fortunately, the fun doesn’t stop at the General Assembly – or even at the borders of North Carolina. Appalachian Voices members like you have been working on a grassroots level to pass town and county resolutions where they live that ask our representatives in Washington to support clean air. To get resolutions passed all over North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, we’re going to need your help! Just think, it’s an opportunity for you to play an instrumental role in protecting the future of our mountains and the health of our citizens at a critical time when both the White House and leaders in Congress are working hard to weaken clean air laws. If you’re up for it, Appalachian Voices’ staff and volunteers will be with you every step of the way. So far, our success rate is 100%, and clean air resolutions have been passed in places across the political spectrum, including Watauga County and the town of Sparta, North Carolina.
The success of Appalachian Voices’ work depends on folks who care about these mountains and want to share their legacy with future generations. With upwind polluters freely spewing their toxins into our lungs, Appalachian Voices is proud to stand with the people of these mountains in saying “Enough is enough!” We want our clean air back.
Bipartisan letter to North Carolina’s congressional delegation from members of the General Assembly
To the Honorable Senators and Representatives of North Carolina, U.S. Congress,
We, the undersigned senators and representatives of the North Carolina General Assembly, are writing to encourage your support for statewide efforts to reduce the harmful impacts of air pollution on the health, environment and economy of North Carolina.
As you know, clean air is vital to the health and wellbeing of all of North Carolina’s citizens, especially our children and senior citizens. Moreover, the natural beauty of our mountain, coastal, and forested landscapes is a source of pride and inspiration to the citizens of North Carolina and millions of others who visit our state every year. Our agriculture, forest products, and tourism industries, as well as our recreational and commercial fisheries, are important components of the economy of North Carolina. However, air pollution degrades our scenery, harms our health, compromises our commercial and recreational fisheries, and damages our forests, creeks and farms.
In response to our state’s pressing air quality problems, both chambers of the General Assembly, in cooperation with North Carolina’s citizens, businesses and electric utilities, established a clear, bipartisan, and nearly unanimous agreement to improve our air quality by passing the Clean Smokestacks Act in 2002. This legislation will, by 2013, limit the harmful effects of air pollution from our own coal-fired power plants by reducing emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxides by roughly 78% and 73% respectively.
Despite progress in reducing pollution from North Carolina’s smokestacks, a large and increasing proportion of our state’s air pollution originates from facilities operated by utilities in neighboring states that are not subject to our Clean Smokestacks Act. As those states have so far not followed North Carolina’s example in controlling emissions at the state level, reducing pollution that originates in those states will require leadership at the federal level.
Regrettably, proposals currently before Congress would relax the pollution reduction requirements for utilities set forth in the federal Clean Air Act. Additionally, there are proposals being considered by Congress that would undermine North Carolina’s legal authority to seek reductions in pollution that originates in upwind states.
Relaxing the pollution standards for other states, particularly upwind states, only harms North Carolina’s citizens and businesses while at the same time placing our electric utilities at a serious economic disadvantage. Weakening standards will also jeopardize the progress North Carolina is making toward improving the quality of our air. Such improvements will require all of North Carolina’s leaders, particularly our elected members of Congress, to work together to uphold our Clean Smokestacks Act and reduce air pollution originating in upwind states.
For these reasons, we urge your support for national legislation that would reduce air pollution to levels comparable to those contained in our own Clean Smokestacks Act, over a similar period of time. At a minimum, please oppose any legislation, such as the proposed “Clear Skies Act,” that would weaken the pollution standards set forth in the 1990 amendments to the federal Clean Air Act, or that would eliminate North Carolina’s authority to seek reductions in pollution originating in upwind states.