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Energy & Environment
WFAE reporter David Boraks explores how the way we live influences climate change and its impact across the Carolinas. You also can read additional national and international climate news.

NC Environmental Group's New Name Reflects A New Focus On Climate

David Boraks
June Blotnick is executive director of the newly renamed CleanAIRE NC.

North Carolina environmental group Clean Air Carolina is relaunching and rebranding to focus on climate change and environmental justice.

Clean Air Carolina was founded 19 years ago by activists concerned about poor air quality in Mecklenburg County. It's now a statewide organization with an annual budget of about $1 million. The new name is CleanAIRE NC. That's A-I-R-E, for Action and Innovation to Restore the Environment.

Executive director June Blotnick said they've been considering the change for a couple of years.

"We were getting more involved in climate issues, environmental justice issues, health issues," she said. "And our original mission statement didn't even have climate change in there. And so we did a lot of thinking about the work and the movement of our work into those fields, and decided it was time to rebrand the organization."

CleanAIRE NC has offices in Charlotte and Raleigh. It now has nine employees, including a newly hired environmental justice manager.

The group recently joined the North Carolina Coastal Federation in pushing state regulators to adopt limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The state Environmental Management Commission approved that petition Tuesday, and now will begin rulemaking to draft those limits.

An Evolving Focus

It's a long way from its roots in 2002, when air pollution was the big issue, Blotnick said.

"Back then, Charlotte did not meet the federal standards for ground-level ozone," she said. "And we were actually on the American Lung Association's list of top 10 'smoggiest cities' in the country."

Regulations including the federal Clean Air Act and North Carolina's Clean Smokestacks Act in 2002 changed the picture. CleanAIR NC has continued to work on pollution, with public events and programs like its "citizen scientist" group AirKeepers. It now also manages a group of health care providers called N.C. Clinicians for Climate Action.

The group has worked with neighborhood leaders in Charlotte's Historic West End on air quality monitoring, "specifically particle pollution from the highways surrounding that community," Blotnick said. The new environmental justice manager will expand on that work, she said.

CleanAIRE NC is funded primarily by private donations.

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