To finance pollution-reducing equipment, electricity rates would be frozen for five years, followed by a seven-year period during which electric utilities could recover the estimated $2.3 billion needed to make the improvements.
The state's two largest electric utilities, Duke Energy and Progress Energy, also have thrown their support behind the plan, which would reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by about 70 percent from 1998 levels. Mercury emissions also would drop substantially.
N.C. Sierra Club Director Molly Diggens said Friday that the plan holds great promise.
"If passed as proposed, it would be one of the strongest pieces of environmental legislation ever approved by the (N.C.) General Assembly," she said. "Everyone will benefit."
A similar plan, called the Clean Smokestacks Act, was passed by the N.C. Senate last year but stalled in the N.C. House because of questions about who would finance the costs.
The Senate bill allowed for modest electricity rate increases amounting to less than $5 per month for average residential consumers. But large manufacturers, who would have seen substantial electric bill increases, opposed the rate increase.
Easley stated in a press release that the new clean air plan would "benefit the health of our people by reducing lung disease and asthma; benefit our environment by reducing smog and acid rain and benefit our economy by preserving our investments in tourism."
Easley spokeswoman Amanda Wherry said the new plan has a better chance of passing in the House because rates will not increase and utility companies support it.
"The holdup was working with utility companies," she said. "The governor didn't want the consumers to have to pay for it."