Harmful pollution to be cut under federal agreement
North Carolina’s landmark clean air settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority has received final approval from a federal court judge, Attorney General Roy Cooper said June 30.
Judge Thomas A. Varlan of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee approved a consent decree in the case, bringing to a successful close Cooper’s five-year-long legal battle to get the TVA to clean up emissions from its coal-fired plants.
“Many years of hard work went into winning this settlement for the people of North Carolina, and I’m pleased that we’ve achieved this resolution,” Cooper said. “Our air and our water will be cleaner and our people and our economy healthier thanks to this settlement.”
In April, Cooper and the TVA entered into a settlement to resolve concerns that dirty air from TVA plants was clouding North Carolina skies and sickening its residents. The TVA is required to reduce emissions by retiring at least 18 of its 59 coal units and installing and continuously operating emission-control equipment on almost all of the remaining units.
Four TVA plants that are closest to North Carolina will be among the first to be controlled or shut down. The TVA will also pay $11.2 million to North Carolina over the next five years for programs to encourage energy efficiency and reduce demand for electricity.
The case began in January 2006 when Cooper, on behalf of North Carolina, filed a public nuisance lawsuit against the TVA claiming that the utility’s coal-fired plants sent polluted air into North Carolina. Nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions from these plants are linked to increased incidence of premature mortality, asthma, chronic bronchitis and other cardiopulmonary illnesses in North Carolina. The pollution also degrades water and soil, damages crops, and reduces visibility, especially in the mountains, a draw for the state’s $12 billion-a-year tourism industry.
U.S. District Court Judge Lacy Thornburg ruled in North Carolina’s favor in 2009, though an appellate court later reversed the decision. North Carolina has sought review of that decision in the United States Supreme Court, but will now withdraw its petition for review since the settlement has been approved by a federal court in Knoxville, Tenn.