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Published May 15 2009

Forum editorial: Keep ND air quality the best

Amid the blizzards and floods of the past few months, some good news for North Dakotans: The state got a grade of “A” for air quality by the American Lung Association in counties that have Environmental Protection Agency monitoring stations. The association also named Fargo-Moorhead as having the cleanest air based on three years of monitoring by EPA.

The reports measure particulate matter, ozone and short-term particulates. The findings are especially gratifying because a few of the counties monitored are in coal country and have coal-fired power plants, which frequently are cited as air polluters. The Fargo-Moorhead results also are gratifying because the state’s largest urban area has the largest concentration of vehicles and industry, which also are sources of air pollution.

Of course, weather and climate have a lot to do with air quality. North Dakota is fortunate to be windy and without major centers of air polluting industries. While levels of pollution are low, according to the reports, weather systems serve as gigantic natural air scrubbers.

That’s not to say polluting industries have not done their part. Emissions controls on power plants significantly reduce air pollution. And other EPA measures confirm that the state is doing a good job in keeping the air as clean as possible. The agency has designated North Dakota as one of only 13 states to meet all the nation’s federal ambient air quality standards for three years running.

Let’s keep it that way. As traditional coal, oil and natural gas development expands, so does the potential for air pollution. The challenge in the future will be to develop resources as responsibly – better, even – as we have in the past 20 years.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.