Lawmakers in Raleigh could decide Wednesday whether North Carolina will become one of a handful of states that will ignore new federal limits on emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants.
The expected debate in the state Senate could make North Carolina a testing ground for the nation’s first attempt to regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutant. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to propose the limits next month, giving states a year to come up with compliance strategies or default to a plan created by the EPA.
The state Senate is set to debate the EPA requirement that North Carolina reduce the emissions by nearly 40 percent by 2030. The state House voted three months ago to direct state environmental authorities to develop a compliance plan, but a Senate committee last week scrapped that idea. If the Senate plots a new policy course to do little or nothing, the issue would have to go back to the House to become state law.
One of the leading critics of the new EPA restrictions is Donald van der Vaart, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, saying the EPA rules are like “forcing a round peg into a square hole.”
A study released in January of this year concluded that the unprecedented new EPA rules would have significantly negative effects on NC, including a loss of more than 32,000 jobs, a fall in disposable income of $3.5 billion and sharply higher electricity rates for homeowners and industrial users.