Charlotte Business Calls It Right

When right-wing power companies accuse progressive candidates of political posturing, you have to scratch your head. I guess that's why Freud came up with the idea of projection . . . seeing in others the thing you refuse to see in yourself. In any case, the saga of Roy Cooper taking Tennessee to the woodshed over its polluting ways continues, this time with the Charlotte Business Journal weighing in on the side of the common good for a change. It's a pretty good story, that gets to the crux of the issue.

If the matter weren't serious, the idea of the state of North Carolina suing the Tennessee Valley Authority would almost sound like a joke.

But N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper isn't kidding. He's charging the giant, federally chartered power company with creating a public nuisance because emissions from its coal plants are fouling Tar Heel State air. The case has already sparked angry responses from across the Smokies.

Cooper is miffed that TVA hasn't formally committed to specific, massive reductions in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen, unlike North Carolina's two big electric utilities governed by the state's 2002 Clean Smokestack Act. No other Southern state has passed a similar law, leaving air-quality issues to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That isn't satisfactory to Cooper, who says he's tired of seeing smog and dead trees in western North Carolina.

Cynics say Cooper's lawsuit is nothing but a gimmick to further his political ambitions. But I wouldn't care if it were. It's the right thing and I'm proud of home for doing it, even if it does help his career. Wingers don't understand that. They assume everyone is crooked like they are.

But here's the most interesting part of the CB story:

Campaign experts doubt Moore or Cooper can win a three-person primary against Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, so most expect one of the men to drop out if his poll numbers lag significantly. That criticism seems misguided, given Cooper's background as a Morehead Scholar at UNC Chapel Hill and his reputation as one of Raleigh's straight shooters. As a legislator in the 1980s and 1990s, he was known more for his hard work than for seeking publicity.

Air-quality expert Michael Shore of Environmental Defense, an activist group, says Cooper has for years shown leadership on pollution issues. North Carolina can feel superior over its Southern neighbors because of the Clean Smokestack Act's strict requirements, he adds.

I don't know who these "campaign experts" are . . . probably some hacks on the Charlotte Business copy desk. And though I'm all for Beverly Perdue, I hate this kind of sloppy journalism.

Finally, to weigh in on the merits of the issue, Cooper is just doing his job. North Carolina leads the nation in its commitment to clean air, and he's right to push this issue hard.

One of Tennessee's leading environmentalists also praises Cooper, noting TVA's size (8.6 million customers) and influence tend to squelch pressure from within its seven-state region. "TVA is moving toward cleaning up its plants, but it's being done at a slower pace than most of us would like," says Will Calloway of the Tennessee Environmental Council in Nashville.