Environmental groups target North Dakota on air quality

By Stephanie Hemphill

Environmental groups are joining battle with the state of North Dakota and its coal industry over air quality in northern Minnesota and especially in three national treasures: the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Voyageurs National Park, and Isle Royale National Park.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has been pushing coal-fired power plants in North Dakota to install specific pollution control technology, which utilities there say will not work on lignite coal. State officials back the utilities, and the North Dakota House of Representatives has weighed in, passing two bills critical of the EPA.

According to Drew Kerr in Midwest Energy News, “Visibility has been reduced by one-half to two-thirds what it would be under natural conditions at national parks and forests in the western United States because of haze-forming particulate matter such as nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide…”

Smog also affects human health.

The Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association are buying ads in local newspapers in North Dakota and northern Minnesota, directing readers to a website designed to promote citizen involvement in the fight.

On its website, the Lignite Energy Council asserts that “employment and economic growth are the most important factors relating to length of life.”

Meanwhile, North Dakota’s attorney general is suing Minnesota over Minnesota’s renewable energy standards, saying the rules get in the way of interstate commerce.