North Carolina to Develop Rule to Limit Carbon Pollution from Power Plants


July 13, 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 today welcomed its approval by the N.C.  Environmental Management Commission, given the urgency of cutting carbon when the effects of climate change are already harming North Carolina communities. 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 decision to grant the petition, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality will launch a rulemaking process including opportunities for the public to comment on the proposed rule.

“Today’s decision by the EMC is a common-sense step to reduce harmful carbon pollution from power plants in what a study by UNC and Duke University shows is a cost-effective approach,” said Gudrun Thompson, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, which is representing the petitioners in the legal proceedings. “Given the threat of climate change to our state, North Carolina needs to do its part to cut heat-trapping carbon pollution from power plants. Today’s action by the EMC will help move our state towards a clean energy future by pushing polluting coal generation off the power grid.”

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.

“It’s very early in hurricane season, and two tropical storms have already blown through our coast,” said Todd Miller, executive director of the North Carolina Coastal Federation. “While we keep a watchful eye on the tropics, it’s encouraging that state leaders want to find ways to reduce carbon pollution so that our oceans won’t get so warm and spawn as many intense storms.”

The Cooper administration 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 the 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 setting North Carolina up to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cooperative effort among states from Maine to Virginia to cap and reduce power sector carbon pollution.

“This rulemaking is an opportunity for our state to lead the Southeast in carbon reduction which will result in cleaner air and better health”, said June Blotnick, executive director of Clean Air Carolina. “For the past few years, North Carolina has lost ground as a clean energy leader. RGGI is an opportunity to put the right market mechanisms in place to properly value clean energy generation without arbitrary mandates.”

In RGGI’s first decade alone, participating states saw steep declines in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants: from 2008 to 2018, emissions fell by 47%, which was 90% more than in the rest of the country. Over the same period, the RGGI states also saw reduced air pollution and fewer premature deaths, heart attacks, and respiratory illnesses; a 5.7% decline in electricity prices, compared to an increase in the rest of the country; and economic growth that outpaced the rest of the country by 31%.


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.

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