North Carolina voters rank clean water, clean air and over-development among their top concerns, right on par with education, says a new environmental poll. The poll also found that environmental issues figure strongly in voting decisions, and that voters believe that governmental action is needed to protect the environment.  

A Global Strategy Group, Inc. poll of 600 registered voters who are likely to vote in the November 2000 election reveals a strong commitment to environmental protection by voters in all parts of the state, and across party lines. The poll was conducted from June 14-18, 2000 for the Conservation Council of North Carolina Foundation and the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.  

"The poll shows North Carolina voters are ready to take action on the environment in the electoral process, with nearly nine in ten voters characterizing clean air and water issues as important to their voting decisions," said Carrie Oren, Director of the Conservation Council of North Carolina Foundation. "A large majority of voters in North Carolina are in favor of a higher level of government involvement in protecting the environment, and believe that we can have both a clean environment and a strong economy. Our elected officials need to understand this as they are making critical environmental decisions."  

Voters demand stronger action from the government. 77% of voters are in favor of a higher level of government involvement in protecting the environment. Fewer than one in five NC voters believe that the government is currently doing enough or too much to protect the state's environment.  

Polluters should fund enforcement efforts. 91% of NC voters believe that people who break environmental laws should pay fines for their actions to cover enforcement costs. 89% would have businesses that pollute pay higher dumping fees to contribute to cleanup efforts.  

Voters reject a tradeoff between a clean environment and a strong economy. 77% of North Carolina voters believe that a clean environment and strong economy are both attainable goals.  

Now is the time to ask the candidates where they stand:


Under current law, older coal-fired power plants do not have to follow the same rules as new plants. Would you favor requiring all coal plants to meet the new environmental standards for cleaner air?  

In addition to power plants, the other significant source of air pollution comes from automobiles, trucks and sport utility vehicles. What are your plans to reduce the pollution from vehicles?  

From haze in the mountains to the fumes you breathe during rush hour traffic, air pollution threatens our health and the health of our children, our crops, and our natural landscapes. During the summers of 1998 and 1999, the air was unhealthy to breathe somewhere in the state one out of every three days. Cleaning up our power plants and automobiles are the only way to clean up our air.  

The air across North Carolina is becoming unhealthy for our citizens to breathe. In 1999, NC had the third highest number of exceedences of health standards for ozone pollution, second only to California and Texas.  

Ozone, the main ingredient of smog, forms when nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from vehicles, power plants, and other factories are acted upon by sunlight. Ozone hurts crops and trees, and makes it hard to breathe. Children, the elderly, people with respiratory ailments, and even healthy adults (especially when exercising outdoors) can suffer increased respiratory problems like asthma and permanent lung damage when ozone levels get too high. In 1997, ozone problems triggered an estimated 5700 emergency room visits and 1900 hospital admissions for respiratory problems.  

Power plants and automobiles are our two biggest air polluters. Last year, NC lawmakers passed a law to reduce automobile pollution, but NC power plants are some of the dirtiest in the country-- none of the state's 14 coal-fired power plants are required to meet modern emission standards.  

Cleaning up our power plants is the simplest and most cost-effective way to reduce NC's air pollution and ensure public health. Industry says this will be too expensive, but the EPA estimates that the cost of reducing NOx by 80% will cost about $15 per family each year. Current technology is available to meet these reductions. Our children's health is worth it!  

Now is the time to ask candidates and public officials at all levels from city councils to the legislature to Congress -- what they can do to adopt the strongest possible clean air protections possible. 



Do you support the establishment of buffers along all the rivers of the state to filter out sediment and runoff?

Do you support a cap and reduction on nitrogen discharges from municipal wastewater treatment plants in all river basins in our state?  

Do you support an accelerated plan to phase out lagoons?  

Clean water has captured the attention of the people of North Carolina. Water that they drink, fish, and swim in, is too often polluted. The people have realized that as our state continues to grow and flourish, we must be vigilant to the increasing threats to water quality.  

Many of North Carolina's rivers face problems associated with excessive nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, discharged into the river. There are several sources of these nutrients and other pollutants that are damaging our rivers, including municipal and industrial discharges, and agricultural and other nonpoint run-off. Our rivers fill with sediment every time it rains.  

In 1996, the General Assembly required sources of discharge into the Neuse River to reduce nitrogen loads by at least 30%. In 1998, the Environmental Management Commission adopted permanent rules establishing a 50-foot buffer along the Neuse, as a cost-effective way to reduce pollution. Other rivers in the state face the same pressures as the Neuse River and need to be cleaned up to protect fisheries and drinking water supplies.  

The hog industry in North Carolina is a major polluter in eastern North Carolina. The hog waste lagoons and spray fields used by large hog farms endanger communities and water quality. Recent problems caused by the floods from Hurricane Floyd have highlighted the problems inherent in the current waste treatment systems -- they leak into groundwater or contaminate surface waters.  

There are many cost-effective and proven steps that can be taken to reduce water pollution. Will our elected officials cause them to happen?  



Will you support increased funding for transportation alternatives?  

Will you support the establishment of minimum state criteria for local land use plans?  

Building on the lessons of Hurricane Floyd, do you support restrictions on development in hazardous flood plain areas?  

Do you support the Million Acre Initiative, aimed at protecting and additional million acres of open space by the year 2010?  

North Carolina's booming economy has led to a dramatic rise in population, with more people moving to our state every day. While there are many benefits to this growth, it is important to be aware of the threats to quality of life that can occur without strong leadership on this issue. The term "Smart Growth," popular in the media, encompasses a number of different issue areas, each of which bears consideration in planning for our future.  

Current state policies encourage "sprawl." One of the top items cited by citizens when asked about problems associated with rapid growth are traffic and congestion. Not only does this threaten quality of life, but it is a serious contributor to air pollution. Transportation alternatives, such as bus and rail or even carpooling, are under funded, especially when compared to the state's budget for more new roads.

Local governments need guidance to develop local land use plans that protect citizens. In the long run, planning is the only way to reduce environmental damage and overextended government infrastructure, such as schools and wastewater treatment plants, associated with growth.

Widely supported by the public is the protection of natural areas and green spaces, the environmental legacy we will leave for our children.  

The problems of growth and over-development will not go away - WHAT OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS DO MATTERS!


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© 2000/1, League of Conservation Voters Education Fund