North Carolina – Clean Smokestacks Act Anniversary

Governor Roy Cooper Celebrates Twentieth Anniversary of Clean Smokestacks Act

Milestone Air Quality Legislation Paved Way for Significant Environmental and Clean Energy Efforts

Raleigh, NC (STL.News) Governor Roy Cooper celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the Clean Smokestacks Act by acknowledging the impact of the landmark environmental legislation and reaffirming North Carolina’s commitment to protecting our resources and communities while transitioning to clean energy and growing the state’s economy.

“This legislation required our power plants to reduce pollution and when I was Attorney General, I was able to use it to reduce pollution coming into North Carolina from other states,” said Governor Roy Cooper.  “We are now at a critical point where a clean energy economy will not only fight climate change and improve people’s health, but lower energy costs and create high paying jobs as well.”

“North Carolinians continue to benefit from the dramatic emission reductions from the Clean Smokestacks Act both in improved health outcomes and in the economic impact of improved visibility at our state’s natural treasures,” said North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser.  “That success shows what is possible when we work together to move toward a cleaner future.”

As a legislator and as Attorney General, Governor Cooper championed the Clean Smokestacks Act and used the legislation to limit the Tennessee Valley Authority’s pollution from impacting the health of our communities and the quality of our precious natural resources.

The Clean Smokestacks Act, officially titled the Air Quality/Electric Utilities Act (SB 1078), was enacted in July 2002 and requires significant actual emissions reductions from coal-fired power plants in North Carolina.  The required emissions reductions represent about a one-third reduction of the total NOx emissions and a one-half reduction of the total SO2 emissions from all sources in the state.

The legislation provides meaningful health benefits for North Carolinians by significantly reducing pollution events that can trigger asthma and other respiratory problems.  Air pollution has also greatly reduced visibility in the Smoky Mountains and this legislation helps North Carolina improve visibility by reducing pollution from in-state and out-of-state sources that contribute to the problem.

The Act also provided for the recovery of costs incurred by utilities to achieve the emissions limits, which applied to coal-fired electric generating units operated by Duke Energy.  This provision differed from federal rules, which allowed utilities to buy pollution credits.

Governor Cooper has taken significant steps to advance clean energy and address climate change.  In 2018, the Governor issued Executive Order 80 to transition North Carolina to clean energy and outline the state’s fight against climate change.  The Order led to the development of the N.C. Clean Energy Plan and laid the foundation for the bipartisan landmark climate and clean energy legislation that overhauled North Carolina’s power sector known as House Bill 951.

In June 2021, the Governor issued Executive Order 218 to advance North Carolina’s offshore wind development, setting the state’s first offshore wind development goals of 2.8 gigawatts by 2030 and 8 gigawatts by 2050.  In January 2022, the Governor issued Executive Order 246 to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the economy by setting new emissions reductions goals in the transportation sector and get more electric vehicles on the road in North Carolina.