What's the largest producer of SO2 in the area? Progress Energy's Sutton plant.
The strategy should not include a request to delay, weaken or kill the new regulations. Rather, as Catlin suggests, county officials and business leaders should demonstrate to the EPA that the county will make steady progress toward reducing SO2 emissions and controlling future emissions.
The ace in the hole is Progress Energy's plan to replace the old coal-fired Sutton Steam Plant with a one that burns cleaner natural gas. Power plants produce about 75 percent of SO2 emissions; industrial plants produce another 20 percent. The company to break ground on the cleaner-burning facility around March 18, but it isn't expected to be up and running until 2014.
The Sutton plant is by far the biggest producer of sulfur dioxide emissions in the Cape Fear region, spewing 19,460 tons of the stuff annually – more than four times as much as the next-highest producer. Replacing that facility will by itself go a long way toward improving air quality in New Hanover County.