Minnesota’s Air is Great, Again

It seems like we’re always being told that we are losing on the environment. Not only that, it seems like we’re being told are losing even more today than we were yesterday, but this is blatantly untrue. America in general, and Minnesota specifically, is winning on the environment.

One could even argue that Minnesota’s air is great, again.

Every year the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) releases a study entitled “The Air We Breathe,” evaluating the air quality in Minnesota.

The 2019 version of this study states shows that Minnesota’s air quality meets all federal standards. In fact, emissions of nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and small particulates have plummeted since 1997.

This trend has persisted despite the fact that Minnesota’s population and economy have grown, and that people drive more miles today than they did in the past.

In other words, we’re doing so much winning on the environment.

According to MPCA:

“Minnesota has cut emissions significantly in the past 30 years, especially from large facilities like power plants. Today, most of our air pollution comes from vehicles and smaller, neighborhood sources such as home heating, dry cleaners, and backyard fires. These sources are difficult to regulate, so voluntary actions by businesses and individuals will be key to further improving air quality.”

This is big news that no one is talking about, and it proves something we have been talking about for a long time, pollution control equipment at Minnesota’s coal plants means these coal plants are already clean. In contrast, neighborhood sources like dy cleaners, home heating and backyard fires emit 66 percent more small particulates than factories and power plants.

Furthermore, even when Minnesota did have bad air quality days, they were overwhelmingly caused by factors outside of Minnesota. For example, according to MPCA, Minnesota experienced no “bad air” days in 2017. However, during the summer of 2018, we had nine bad air days; seven of these, or 78 percent, were caused by smoke from distant wildfires that was transported into Minnesota.

The real world date belies the popular narrative that the environment is getting worse or is already irreparably ruined. As I’ve noted before, as societies become wealthier, they place a higher priority on having a clean environment. So the next time you’re talking to someone about the state of the environment, just point them toward the real world data that shows Minnesota’s air is great, again.