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Center for a Better South
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The American Lung Association recently gave an "F" air quality grade for smog-forming nitrogen oxide pollution in more than 80 communities in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. The remaining Southern states, Mississippi and Florida, had several communities that scored "D."

Southern states already have proven tools at their disposal to help clean up coal-fired power plant particulates, smog and mercury as quickly as possible to protect public health and natural resources. In taking the next steps toward cleaner air, they should prefer efficiency and cleaner energy over new coal-fired plants. Southern states also should enact innovative programs to protect the public from diesel particulates. Finally, to the degree that Southern states take advantage of the dramatic public health research on air pollution and implement solutions, action to clean up air should allow leaders to promise residents an unparalleled quality of life and begin to assert an appropriate leadership in the national dialogue on air pollution.


Recommendation 3: Southern state legislatures should push for faster and bigger emission reductions, especially for mercury, than those required by the federal program. Southern state legislatures also should make sure that the greatest possible power plant nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide pollution reductions actually happen in their home states rather than through buying credits elsewhere.

Recommendation 4: Each Southern state legislature should fund a diesel clean-up program designed to yield maximum health benefits for its state.

Talking points

  • Over the past two generations, improvements to the country's air quality have been one of the greatest environmental success stories.

  • But there's still a lot to be done. While the federal government has taken action to require coal-fired power plants to reduce emissions of noxious gases, the full impact of changes won't be felt for more than a dozen years.

  • Therefore, Southern states should take tougher steps now than required by the national government to clean up coal-powered plants to protect the health and safety of people across the South. They should refrain from buying pollution credits from other places because that just allows polluters to keep on polluting until a later date.

  • Southern lawmakers should pay particular importance to fine particulates from diesel engines because the region's air ranks high in adult deaths and child health problems from these particulates.

  • Acting now to clean up coal-fired power plants and diesel emissions will improve air, show leadership nationally and create a better quality of life for millions across the South.

As this chart from Chapter 2 highlights,
most Southern states problems with fine particulates in the air.

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