Council urges state to join EPA lawsuit

At last month’s annual retreat, the Asheville City Council made a commitment to work on improving the region’s air quality. At their Feb. 25 formal session, Council member Holly Jones pressed her colleagues to live up to that promise. Seizing a rare lull in the evening’s proceedings, Jones publicly questioned City Attorney Bob Oast about what position the city should take on a nationwide effort by state and municipal governments to sue the EPA over its decision to revise the New Source Review provision of the Clean Air Act.

The revision, issued on Dec. 31, allows older factories and power plants to expand in size and increase their emissions without upgrading obsolete emissions-control systems, as required by the Clean Air Act. Ten states have already filed suit against the EPA protesting the change.

The city’s options, Oast explained, include joining the suit as a municipality or encouraging state Attorney General Roy Cooper to make North Carolina the 11th state to sign on. The former option, warned Oast, could prove costly, as the city would be forced to hire an outside attorney, due to the complex and probably lengthy nature of the litigation.

After a brief discussion, Council unanimously agreed to send Cooper a letter urging him to join the lawsuit.

According to Avram Friedman of the Canary Coalition (a nonprofit organization working to improve the region’s air quality), the deadline for states to join the suit is Monday, March 3. In a press release, Friedman wrote: “There’s a race with time, now. … For those who are concerned about air quality issues in our state and in our country, now is the time to contact Attorney General Cooper’s office and Secretary of DENR Bill Ross’ office and let them know that you want North Carolina to join with the ten states who are suing the EPA over its decision to weaken the Clean Air Act.”

Oast promised to draft the letter immediately.

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