The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday December 3rd

N.C. Senators Ask Bush for Funds to Clean Up Air

N.C. Senators Ask Bush for Funds to Clean Up Air

A group of senators led by Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, D-Beaufort, gave a letter signed by all 50 state senators to Bush, urging him and Congress to help fund cleanups of air pollution damaging the state's environment.

The letter was the result of findings by the N.C. Senate Select Committee on Mountain Air Quality.

The committee reported that visibility in the state's mountains has dwindled from 65 miles in 1980 to 15 miles.

Committee Co-chairman Sen. Stephen Metcalf, D-Buncombe, said he believes Bush's reaction to the letter was positive and that he hopes the president acts on the issue soon. "He promised to take it back to Washington and do some research on it, and then he'd get back to us."

According to committee reports, the major cause of the pollutants is the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federally owned power plant.

Dr. Robert Bruck, professor of plant pathology and forestry at N.C. State University, said the TVA is responsible for most of the 80 percent of North Carolina's air pollution problems caused by out-of-state agents. "TVA is the single largest emitter of sulfur and nitrogen oxide in the United States."

Sulfur and nitrogen oxide are causes of acid rain and ozone, two elements that produce smog when combined with heat and light.

As Bush went back to Washington, state legislators prepared to discuss in-state pollution reforms.

Senate Bill 1078, introduced today, aims to limit the amount of pollutants produced by power plants.

The bill calls for reductions of 70 to 75 percent in levels of nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide by 2009 and 2013, respectively, and a reduction in levels of mercury by 50 to 60 percent.

Metcalf said state cleanups are necessary prior to future federal cleanups.

Meanwhile, senators said they are hoping for a positive reply from Bush.

Committee Co-chairman Sen. Charles Carter, D-Buncombe, said he believes Bush's past environmental record while governor of Texas could play a major part in his endorsing the cleanups. "He's done certain things with the environment that aren't very popular," Carter said. "President Bush said he needed an environmental issue (to address) and this was one he was very interested in."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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