PO Box 88 ~ Glendale Springs, North Carolina 28629 ~ Phone (336) 982-2691 ~ Fax (336) 982-2954 ~ Email:


November 20, 2008

Louis Zeller (336) 977-0852
Sue Dayton (336) 525-2003
Beverly Kerr (336) 376-9060


Today at a Durham press conference, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League released a report aimed at preventing North Carolina from exempting from regulation more than 1400 air pollution sources. The study Poison Loophole details the dangers of toxic air pollution from coal plants, paper mills and asphalt plants.

According to the study, Progress Energy’s Roxboro coal plant is among the most dangerous industrial boilers with levels of arsenic exceeding state acceptable ambient levels (AALs) by a factor of 16.5 times and chromium-VI by a factor of 9 times. And the excess levels extend into populated areas nearly a mile and a half from the plant.

Other findings are that the proposed Cliffside power plant would exceed the existing health-based limits for arsenic and chromium emissions a half a mile from the plant. The Trigen-Biopower plant in Forest City violates state limits for acrolein, manganese, benzene and dioxin. The Jackson Paper mill in Sylva may exceed state toxics limits by up to 62% for benzene while burning wood fuel and by 15% for chromium VI and 117% for arsenic while burning coal. Toxic formaldehyde levels are indicated at 600 meters from the Maymead asphalt plant in Pineola.

Louis Zeller, who authored the study, said, “North Carolina has one of the best health-based air pollution programs in the nation, but this exemption would gut it.” Zeller added, “We are asking our state government to choose public health over corporate profits.”

Sue Dayton, Coordinator of the League’s NC Healthy Communities Project, said, “It is particularly disturbing that the exemption gives industry an open door to continue to pollute under economic hardship. There are no hardship clauses to protect the health of the citizens of North Carolina who will breathe these poisons.”

Beverly Kerr is a member of Be Safe Not Sorry and an Alamance County business owner. She said, “If they cannot meet the standards, then, they must add pollution controls. Would it cost these industries more money to add pollution controls? Even so, it must be done!”

The proposed loophole would make permanent a “temporary” exemption adopted by the EMC ten years ago. The NC Division of Air Quality justifies the proposed deregulation with a flawed study of the 1400+ sources. The fatal flaw in DAQ’s report is that it is based on inhalation only. In contrast, the state’s health-based toxic air pollution limits are based on two decades of research and analysis by the NC Science Advisory Board whose conclusions consider all human exposure pathways.

The League’s position is that these industries can meet the health-based pollution limits if they cut back production, install pollution controls, or adopt cleaner processes. The organizations are encouraging local governments and other groups to request public hearings in Asheville and Wilmington. The public comments period ends December 31st. Early next year the NC Environmental Management Commission will decide whether to approve the loophole.

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League is a statewide, community-based non-profit organization founded in 1984.


More info: Download the study Poison Loophole