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North Dakota Air Quality Slips as Standards Tighten

A new survey of air-quality alerts for ozone and particle pollution lists several North Dakota county rankings as slipping for the first time in years. (iStockphoto)
A new survey of air-quality alerts for ozone and particle pollution lists several North Dakota county rankings as slipping for the first time in years. (iStockphoto)
April 22, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. - For the first time in several years, North Dakota's air quality is getting less-than perfect marks in the latest State of the Air report from the American Lung Association.

Out of eight North Dakota counties with air-quality monitors, the report shows that six received "B" grades for their levels of particle pollution.

Robert Moffitt, spokesman for the American Lung Association, says while they haven't been able to pinpoint the exact reason for the increased pollution, several factors could be adding to the problem.

"Certainly, the population of the state has increased greatly in recent years," says Moffitt. "There's also been a great deal of development in western North Dakota around the oil fields."

He adds the Environmental Protection Agency is using stricter pollution-monitoring standards, as well. The report is a snapshot of North Dakota's air quality from 2011 to 2013.

It also says a little more than half of all Americans are living in counties with potentially unhealthy levels of air pollution.

And there's good news for the Fargo area, which ranked number one among cities for the nation's lowest levels of year-round particle pollution.

Moffitt says it's a bit of a mystery, since the state has done little to pass clean-energy reforms aimed at reducing the levels of dust, soot and smoke in the air.

He thinks federal and private efforts may be bringing the changes.

"Even in coal states like North Dakota, they're using less coal than they have in previous years, simply because natural gas and other alternatives, like wind power, are just so much cheaper now," Moffitt says.

To help reverse the effects of air pollution, the American Lung Association suggests that North Dakota lawmakers should come up with ideas to meet the lower emissions targets laid out in the federal Clean Power Plan.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - ND