June 15, 2021

Kathleen Sullivan
Sothern Environmental Law Center
[email protected]


CHAPEL HILL, N.C.— The groups behind a rulemaking petition to reduce heat-trapping carbon pollution from power plants in North Carolina welcomed today’s decision by the Air Quality Committee of the N.C. Environmental Management Commission to refer the petition to the full commission. The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the petition, along with a proposed rule, on behalf of Clean Air Carolina and the North Carolina Coastal Federation. With today’s committee vote, the petition now heads to the full commission for consideration at a special meeting on July 13 and a vote whether to move forward with adoption of the proposed rule through notice-and-comment rulemaking.

“We filed this petition because North Carolina needs to take urgent action to reduce carbon pollution from power plants given the harm underway from climate change in our communities,” said Gudrun Thompson, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, which is representing the petitioners in the legal proceedings. “This rule will push dirty coal generation off the power grid, protecting the people and communities of North Carolina from air pollution while moving our state toward a clean energy future.”

North Carolinians are already feeling the impacts of climate change from slower storms that drop more rain and cause flooding, and warmer and more humid days and nights. Scientists warn of more dire consequences for North Carolina’s economy, environment, and people—including to people’s health–without rapid, steep reductions in heat-trapping carbon pollution.

“We’re already watching tropical storms form even though hurricane season just started,” said Todd Miller, executive director of the North Carolina Coastal Federation. “It’s imperative to act to reduce carbon pollution so that our coast is less vulnerable to extreme weather, and this vote is a good first step in that direction.”

The Cooper Administration has set a goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 70% by 2030, reaching net zero emissions by 2050. The proposed rule filed with N.C. Environmental Management Commission would help to achieve those targets in a cost-effective way by setting a declining limit on heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and having North Carolina join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cooperative effort among states from Maine to Virginia to cap and reduce power sector carbon pollution.

“Joining RGGI is a win-win for North Carolina’s economy, environment, and our health”, said June Blotnick, executive director of Clean Air Carolina. “Beyond cutting carbon dioxide emissions, states participating in RGGI have seen reductions in harmful co-pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. Reducing and ultimately eliminating these dangerous emissions will greatly improve the health of communities surrounding power plants, communities that have often experienced the most harm from decades of environmental injustices. Our state must join RGGI to improve health outcomes for all North Carolinians and continue to work to protect our most vulnerable communities.”

States already participating in RGGI saw carbon dioxide emissions from power plants drop 47% over the last decade. With the reduction in fossil fuel generation came reduced air pollution and fewer premature deaths, hospital visits, and lost work or school days, associated with asthma and other respiratory illnesses, strokes, and heart attacks.


For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With over 80 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region.