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Published: Thursday, April 12, 2001 4:03 a.m. EDT

Under the Dome

Bush urged to clean up TVA smog

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The entire North Carolina Senate has asked President Bush to clean up the Tennessee Valley Authority's coal-fired power plants, whose smokestacks pump out much of the pollution that is choking North Carolina's mountains.

A letter hand-delivered to Bush during his North Carolina visit Wednesday carried signatures of all 35 Senate Democrats and 15 Senate Republicans and a plea for action on what has become one of the state's most serious environmental problems.

"The time to correct this problem is now and the primary culprit is the TVA system of power plants owned and operated by the federal government," the senators wrote.

The TVA's power plants are located in Tennessee and other states upwind from North Carolina.

"TVA is a federally owned and operated facility and it ought to be the model of environmental excellence," they wrote.

Instead, the senators cited graphic statistics about the decline of air quality in the mountains. More Western North Carolina residents reportedly die from lung-related illnesses than those in other parts of the state, while average visibility in parts of the region has dropped from 65 miles in 1980 to 15 miles today.

Robert Bruck, an N.C. State University scientist, estimated that 80 percent of the air pollution in the west comes from out of state, primarily from TVA smokestacks, the senators wrote.

The letter calls for installation of scrubbers and chemical filters known as selective catalytic reduction on the TVA plants.

The letter is a sign that the state plans to use its own clean air measures to pressure surrounding states to do the same.

Earlier this month, bills were introduced in the Senate and House that would impose the nation's toughest pollution controls on 14 coal-burning plants in North Carolina.

A 'Smart Growth' challenge

With a North Raleigh mall construction site as a backdrop, professional planners Wednesday asked the General Assembly to push ahead with managed-growth legislation.

Census reports on the state's 21 percent population growth underscore the need for a statewide program to encourage local planning goals, the planners say.

"We're having an alarming rate of growth," said Richard Hails, president of the North Carolina chapter of the American Planning Association and a member of the Planning Department in Durham.

"Planners are not against growth," he said. "We're also very aware that there are better ways and worse ways to be growing."

Over the past few months, the association has made 50 presentations on managed growth in 30 counties as part of its "Smart Growth Challenge."

Rite of initiation

The House initiated a new member, Mark Crawford, a Republican from Black Mountain, with a session Wednesday that ran more than five hours.

Crawford, a real estate agent who ran for a seat in 1996 and 1998, was appointed to replace Asheville Republican Lanier Cansler, who left the General Assembly to join the Department of Health and Human Services.

As the debate on an alcohol bill stretched past 7 p.m., Crawford removed his eyeglasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

As the session adjourned, a sergeant-at-arms walked up to Crawford and shook his hand.

"All days aren't like today," he said.

By staff writers Lynn Bonner and James Eli Shiffer. Bonner can be reached at 829-4821 or at

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