Minnesota Earns Mixed Grades In Annual Air Quality Report Card

(April 24, 2013)

Saint Paul, MN – While the Twin Cities metro area is on the list of “most polluted cities” for short-term particle pollution in the 2013 State of the Air Report released today by the American Lung Association,  there are signs of progress. The Minneapolis-St. Paul-St. Cloud region was ranked 42nd most polluted in an analysis of short-term pollution in 235 metro areas nationwide.  That’s a slight improvement over last year, when the metro area was ranked 36th most polluted. In a separate analysis of annual particle pollution in 220 metro areas, the Twin Cities ranked 116th most polluted (improving from 104th), and Rochester, Minn. was ranked 140th most polluted, slightly worse than last year’s 142nd ranking. No other Minnesota cities made the most polluted list.

The State of the Air Report looks at three years (2009-2011) of air quality data that was collected by the state and verified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  As in past years, Minnesota’s scores in the report are generally good, but mixed.  Ramsey County’s grade for short-term particle pollution improved to a “D,” up from an “F” grade in last year’s report.  However, Anoka and Washington counties, which earned “A” grades last year for ozone pollution, saw their grades slip to a “B” in the 2013 report. Other grades for Minnesota counties remained unchanged from last year’s report.

“The message these reports are telling us is air pollution is a serious concern, and that we need to continue efforts to reduce it,” said Robert Moffitt, a spokesperson for the American Lung Association in Minnesota.  “In the Twin Cities and statewide, there has been real progress in reducing emissions -  new wind and solar power projects,  adding mass transit capabilities to the Twin Cities, increased use of alternative fuels and advance vehicle technologies like E85, biodiesel and electric vehicles, decreased use of coal for energy production and increased controls on emissions sources.  In many ways, we are on the right path to cleaner air; but there is still much more to be done and we must continue to implement changes in business, in government and in each of our daily lives in order to protect air quality and human health.”

A couple of bright spots in the report came from greater Minnesota.  Duluth and Rochester were cited as among the nation’s cleanest cities for ozone pollution, with no days of unhealthy ozone reported during the three year period. Duluth was also ranked 9th cleanest city for annual particle pollution. A link to the full report can be found here.