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Associated Press, Published May 19 2013

North Dakota gets high marks for air quality, despite dust

DICKINSON, N.D. — North Dakota continues to get high marks for air quality, despite dust problems in the western part of the state.

“North Dakota is one of a handful of states that meet all clean air standards,” said Jim Semerad of the North Dakota Department of Health's Division of Air Quality. "Newer air quality regulations that are in place and enforced and our low population all play into it.

The Dickinson Press reports that eight North Dakota counties were selected for the American Lung Association's State of the Air Annual Report for 2013. The study looked at the Environmental Protection Agency's most recent air pollution data for smog and dust.

Billings, Dunn and McKenzie counties, which were chosen partly because of their proximity to national grasslands and other federal land, earned grades of A.

Mercer and Oliver counties, which house five of the state's seven power plants and the only lignite coal-to-natural gas plant, also got top marks.

Robert Moffitt, a spokesman for the Outdoor Air Division at the American Lung Association's St. Paul, Minn., office, said dust is a kind of particle pollution that the state monitors and reports to the EPA, but the report does not break down specific types of particle pollution. He said the American Lung Association's report shows that only half the state's eight air monitors provided enough data for the association to issue a grade on particle pollution.

Those monitors were located in Billings, Burleigh, Cass and Mercer counties.

Burke, Dunn, McKenzie and Oliver counties now have particle pollution monitors, but Moffitt said data has been insufficient to date to get a grade for short-term and annual levels.

Moffitt said an A grade doesn't mean that people living in a county will have no air pollution-related health effects.