By Stephanie Carson
RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina’s scientists are doing anything but breathing easily about the future of the state’s air quality as the Trump administration pursues the dismantling of the Clean Power Plan and other environmental regulations.
And while rolling back rules regarding energy generation and development is a concern, William Schlesinger, president emeritus of Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, says protecting air quality also comes down to what’s happening in rural areas.
“Most of the time you think about urban areas and factories,” he states. “Much of the small particles in the atmosphere in North Carolina come from agricultural sources.”
North Carolina’s large number of poultry and hog farms produces ammonia that can become particulate matter that impacts air quality.
Such problems were among the topics at the recent NC BREATHE Conference, hosted by Clean Air Carolina.
At the conference, attendees developed policy recommendations that include linking scientists with communities affected by air pollution and supporting lawmakers who advocate for environmental health.
Schlesinger says maintaining clean air is a matter of health and economics.
“People don’t want to live in a place that’s unhealthy and new businesses looking for places to locate don’t want to locate in a place that has unhealthy air quality,” he stresses. “A clean environment is one of the most attractive things for places where people live and places where businesses locate.”
The state’s Clean Smokestacks Act, passed in 2002, is one example Schlesinger and others use to demonstrate how stronger regulations can improve the environment.
The act sets limits on the amount of nitrogen and sulfur dioxides puffed in the air by coal-fired power plants. The resulting scrubbers installed at power plants in the state resulted in significant emissions reductions.