Editors note: Erica Palmer is a superstar intern at Appalachian Voices. In recent months, she has been working with members and volunteers to help pass town and county resolutions in support of our clean air protections, which are currently threatened by proposed federal rollbacks of the Clean Air Act.
Since passing the Clean Smokestacks Act in 2002, North Carolina has been the South’s clean air leader. However, proposed rollbacks of our clean air protections coming from Washington threaten to undermine the gains made in North Carolina. As a result, in recent months a number of North Carolina towns and counties have stepped forward to declare their support for our existing clean air laws. Watauga, Alexander, and Haywood Counties, as well as the cities of Hickory and Asheville and the towns of Boone, Taylorsville, Sparta, and Seven Devils, have all taken a stand in support of the federal Clean Air Act.
Over the past few months, volunteers in these counties and towns in western North Carolina have been working to pass resolutions supporting our federal clean air laws. These resolutions specifically call on the US Congressional delegation from North Carolina to oppose any legislation that would weaken the federal Clean Air Act and its amendments of 1977 and 1990, thus undermining the Clean Smokestacks Act.
In response to recent proposals in Congress that would weaken the Clean Air Act, these localities have taken strong preemptive measures to protect our air quality. North Carolina is in an especially important position when it comes to this issue. Despite having the one of the strongest clean air laws in the nation (the 2002 Clean Smokestacks Act), we suffer from some of the worst pollution in the country due to power plant pollution coming from upwind states. This imported pollution harms North Carolina citizens in a multitude of ways.
The health of North Carolina depends on clean and healthy air. With air pollution causing an estimated 1,800 deaths in the state each year and a major asthma epidemic taking place, especially among children, the well-being of North Carolinians, particularly our most vulnerable citizens, children and senior citizens, is being jeopardized.
Our natural beauty and our environment are suffering as well. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is now the most polluted national park in the nation. In the summer months, smog blocks our scenic views by as much as 75%. This not only destroys the natural beauty of our land, but also hurts North Carolina’s fastest growing industry: tourism.
The economic concerns are not limited to the tourism industry. Poor air quality reduces profitability for our agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries. In addition to its impacts on public health and the environment, air pollution is putting North Carolina businesses at an economic disadvantage.
These resolutions are the strongest steps we can take in protecting North Carolina’s air, and a number of individuals have been an amazing help in getting these resolutions passed. One of the first towns to adopt a clean air resolution was Sparta, due to the persuasion of a long-time member and active environmentalist, Carol Black.
In the town of Seven Devils we had the help of Richard DeMott, an Appalachian Voices member who also serves as the town’s Mayor Pro-tempore. Jane Young led the way for a Haywood County resolution through a great deal of work as well as a compelling speech to the county commission. Doug and Carol Wingeier also worked hard through the Haywood County Peace Fellowship to spread the word about our efforts toward healthy air.
An Asheville city councilman, Brownie Newman, led the council in adopting a resolution for the city. In Alexander County and the town of Taylorsville we had the help of Guy Kerley, as well as support from a number of local civic organizations and the Friendship Lutheran Women of the ELCA (who have since become a group member!).
One member who deserves extra-special thanks for all her hard work is Brenda Huggins. Her instrumental work in the passage of the Hickory City Council resolution has been added on to a long list of volunteer work she has done for Appalachian Voices.
These volunteers have all done amazing work for the health, environment, and economy of North Carolina. The threats to our clean air protections continue to mount, and we would love to have your help. We look forward to working with anyone else who wishes to volunteer their time to push for resolutions supporting the Clean Air Act. Please contact the Appalachian Voices office if you would like to help: call toll free at 877-APP-VOICE or email firstname.lastname@example.org. These nine resolutions have been an amazing start to what we hope will be many more resolutions across the state.