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NC Wins Air Quality Battle With TVA

North Carolina has won a settlement requiring the Tennessee Valley Authority to shut down nearly one third of its coal-fired units and install pollution controls in the rest. The legal battle spanned five years and is a significant victory for pollution reduction. A blue mist always seems to hover around the Great Smoky Mountains. But over the years, frequent hiker Steve Copulski says the mountains have come to resemble their name more than they should. "They're supposed to be smoky from fog and weather patterns, not pollution," says Copulski. "You can see over the years how the visibility - the distance you can see - has been greatly reduced, and we know that the bad air moves east." North Carolina authorities have argued for years that the pollution is coming from coal-fired power plants operated in other states by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The utility company has agreed in a settlement with North Carolina and several other states that it will shut down 18 of its 59 coal-fired units and invest $3 to $5 billion upgrading emission controls in those that stay open. North Carolina Sierra Club chapter president Molly Diggins says the reduction is substantial. TVA will retire the equivalent of three and a half power plants the size of Duke Energy's Cliffside generator in Rutherford County. "So it means there's a tremendous amount of dirty air that was blowing into North Carolina, that no longer will be, as this agreement is implemented," says Diggins. TVA will also pay a $10 million fine to the EPA and an additional $11.2 to North Carolina for energy efficiency programs. Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky will also get compensation. North Carolina lawmakers passed a law in 2002 requiring Duke Energy and Progress Energy to reduce harmful emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide at their plants in the state. Attorney General Roy Cooper then went after TVA in neighboring Tennessee because, as Cooper is fond of saying, "Pollution ignores state boundaries."