Originally created 12/30/98

North Carolina challenges federal pollution requirements



RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina has sued to block federal regulators from enforcing a plan aimed at cutting smog-causing emissions across the Northeast.

The state on Monday challenged requirements imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency on 22 states from Missouri to Massachusetts, contending it has a less onerous plan to reduce nitrogen oxide.

Gov. Jim Hunt's administration estimates regulations it proposed would lessen the burden on industries and still meet about two-thirds of the reduction sought by the EPA from North Carolina.

But environmentalists said the federal lawsuit could undermine the regional approach the EPA was trying to craft to fight pollution.

"The results are much less certain," said Molly Diggins, director of the state's Sierra Club.

The EPA has said states could require emission reductions from any source, including automobiles, but the cheapest way was tighter controls on coal-burning power plants.

The EPA directed North Carolina to cut its nitrogen oxide emissions by 29 percent by 2003. The state plan would cut pollution from the five largest electric power plants and heighten restrictions on vehicle emissions.

North Carolina's lawsuit is separate from challenges previously filed against the EPA rules by Indiana, Michigan, West Virginia and Ohio.

Utilities applauded the move.

"We think the appeal is the right thing to do," said Mark Stinneford, a spokesman for Carolina Power & Light. "Essentially we don't think we're causing pollution problems in Northeast states."