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October 15, 2021

Randy Strait
NC Division of Air Quality
1641 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1641

Comments submitted via email to: daq.publiccomments@ncdenr.gov

Re: Conservation Organizations Comments on North Carolina’s Proposed Regional Haze State Implementation Plan (SIP) for North Carolina Class I Areas for the Second Planning Period (2019 – 2028)

Dear Mr. Strait:

The National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, Southern Environmental Law Center, CleanAIRE NC, Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, and NC League of Conservation Voters, Appalachian Voices, Alliance to Protect our People and the Places We Live, NAACP Stokes County Branch, Center for Biological Diversity, Environment North Carolina and North Carolina Conservation Network (“Conservation Organizations”) submit the following and attached comments regarding the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Air Quality’s (DAQ), Proposed Regional Haze State Implementation Plan (SIP) for North Carolina Class I Areas for the Second Planning Period (2019 – 2028).

National Parks Conservation Association (“NPCA”) is a national organization whose mission is to protect and enhance America’s National Parks for present and future generations. NPCA performs its work through advocacy and education. NPCA has over 1.64 million members and supporters nationwide with its main office in Washington, D.C. and 24 regional and field offices. NPCA is active nation-wide in advocating for strong air quality requirements to protect our parks, including submission of petitions and comments relating to visibility issues, regional haze State Implementation Plans, global warming and mercury impacts on parks, and emissions from individual power plants and other sources of pollution affecting National Parks and communities. NPCA’s members live near, work at, and recreate in all the national parks, including those directly affected by emissions from North Carolina’s sources.

The Sierra Club is a national nonprofit organization with 67 chapters and about 830,000 members dedicated to exploring, enjoying, and protecting the wild places of the earth; to practicing and promoting the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; to educating and enlisting humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to using all lawful means to carry out these objectives. The Sierra Club has long participated in Regional Haze rulemaking and litigation across the country in order to advocate for public health and our nation’s national parks.

The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks (“Coalition”) is a non-profit organization composed of over 1,900 retired, former and current employees of the National Park Service (“NPS”). The Coalition studies, speaks, and acts for the preservation of America’s National Park System. As a group, we collectively represent over 40,000 years of experience managing and protecting America’s most precious and important natural, cultural, and historic resources.

CleanAIRE NC (Action and Innovation to Restore the Environment North Carolina [CANC]) is a North Carolina non-profit advocacy organization. We represent healthcare professionals, educators, scientists, and thousands of other advocates from communities across North Carolina. Together we advance solutions that address three powerful determinants of health in North Carolina: climate change, air pollution, and environmental justice. Through advocacy, education, and research, we are working to protect what connects us and ensure that all North Carolinians have access to clean air and a livable climate.

Southern Environmental Law Center is the largest nonprofit, nonpartisan environmental legal advocacy organization rooted in and focused on the South. The mission of the Southern Environmental Law Center is to protect the basic right to clean air, clean water, and a livable climate; to preserve our region’s natural treasures and rich biodiversity; and to provide a healthy environment for all.

The North Carolina League of Conservation Voters is a pragmatic, results-oriented, nonpartisan advocacy organization whose mission is to protect the health and quality of life for all North Carolinians. We elect environmental champions, advocate for environmental policies that protect our communities, and hold elected leaders accountable for their decisions. We have worked for over 50 years to create the political environment that will protect our natural environment.

Founded in 1997, Appalachian Voices brings people together to protect the forests, land, air, and water of Central and Southern Appalachia and advance a just transition to a generative and equitable clean energy economy.

The Alliance to Protect our People and the Places We Live (APPL) is a grassroots organization working on statewide climate change and environmental justice issues, with a particular focus on eastern North Carolina.

The Stokes County Branch of the NAACP is a non-profit public interest organization with members who live near and experience air and water pollution from Duke Energy’s Belews Creek coal-fired power plant. The NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization whose mission is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and discrimination.

The Center for Biological Diversity works to protect endangered species and save life on Earth through science, legal action, media, and policy advocacy. The Center has won protections for more than 440 rare species and secured 230 million acres of critical habitat.

Environment North Carolina is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.

NC Conservation Network is a state-level environmental group that advocates for a safer, healthier North Carolina. Our members and supporters across the state visit the wilderness areas and parks that the haze plan is supposed to protect, and breathe the air harmed by ongoing emissions.

As detailed below, DAQ’s proposed SIP will not result in reasonable progress towards improving visibility at the Class I areas its sources impact, including those located in North Carolina: the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; Shining Rock, Linville Gorge and Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness Areas; and Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge as well as Class I areas in neighboring states. To satisfy the Clean Air Act (“Act”) and Regional Haze Rule (“RHR”) the flaws identified in these comments and in the attached technical reports by Joe Kordzi1Joe Kordzi, “A Review of the North Carolina Regional Haze State Implementation Plan” (Oct. 2021). Mr. Kordzi is an independent air quality consultant and engineer with extensive experience in the regional haze program. (“Kordzi Report”) (Enclosure 1) and D. Howard Gebhart2D. Howard Gebhart, “Technical Review of North Carolina Regional Haze State Implementation Plan Second Round of Regional Haze State Implementation Plans Supplemental Report” (Oct. 2021). (“Gebhart October 2021 Report”) (Enclosure 2) Mr. Gebhart is an air quality meteorologist with 40 years of experience in air quality permitting, specializing in air dispersion modeling; and his CV is attached to his report., 3D. Howard Gebhart, “Technical Review of VISTAS Visibility Modeling for the Second Round of Regional Haze State Implementation Plans” (May 2021). (“Gebhart October 2021 Report”) (Enclosure 3)must be corrected before submittal to EPA, including:

  • DAQ’s technical analyses for its sources are inconsistent with the Act and RHR requirements;
  • DAQ’s draft SIP lacks requirements for new emission reductions during this planning period, there are no practically enforceable emission limitations and therefore the plan does not make reasonable progress;
  • Despite the Act’s four-factor analysis requirements, DAQ dismisses cost-effective upgrades and new controls, asserting that visibility considerations are too small to warrant them;
  • DAQ fails to meaningfully consider and adapt its SIP to address the Federal Land Managers’ (“FLMs”) comments; and
  • DAQ fails to analyze environmental justice impacts and ensure the SIP will reduce emissions and minimize harms to disproportionately affected communities.

We incorporate by reference and attach the two technical reports. Additionally, we incorporate by reference and attach the testimony presented by D. Howard Gebhart and Ulla Reeves at DAQ’s public hearing on October 6, 2021.4D. Howard Gebhart, “Testimony of Howard Gebhart on Behalf of NPCA and Other Conservation Organizations” (Oct. 6, 2021) (Mr. Gebhart opened his remarks by providing a brief summary of his qualifications and expertise. He explained that he has “more than 40 years experience as an air quality professional with a specialized expertise in air quality modeling.” Further, that his “comments here focus on the air quality modeling, but address general air modeling concerns like emission inputs and how the modeling results have been applied.” Finally he explained that his “comments are not specific to the technical details of the CAMx model, but instead are generic concerns that are applicable to any modeling study.” (Enclosure 9)5Ulla Reeves, Senior Advocacy Manager in the Clean Air Program of the NPCA, “Testimony of Ulla Reeves on Behalf of NPCA” (Oct. 6, 2021). (Enclosure 10)

Download a PDF copy of the Table of Contents and Enclosures here.