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Great Lakes Article:

Worse air could result in more regulation

BY DENNIS LIEN
Article courtesy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press

October 11, 2001

Minnesota's air quality is worsening and could result in such federally imposed requirements as reformulated gasoline at local gas pumps, the head of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency warned Wednesday.

Karen Studders told a group of state, business and environmental leaders that unless steps to address the issue are taken, state consumers and businesses eventually could be hit with untold millions of dollars in increased costs to meet tighter anti-pollution requirements.

"We've enjoyed exceptional air quality in this state, and it is threatened,'' said Studders, who also chided industry for past efforts to block legislation attacking mobile pollution sources, a prime contributor to the ground-level ozone that prompted the first air-quality alerts in years in Minnesota this summer.

The forum, sponsored by the Minnesota Environmental Initiative at the Science Museum of Minnesota, was aimed at getting people to discuss strategies that could lessen the threat.

In late June and early August, the MPCA issued ozone alerts warning that air in the Twin Cities was unhealthy for such sensitive groups as children and people with respiratory conditions. The agency recommended they limit their outdoor activities.

Ground-level ozone, a component of smog, is formed when nitrogen oxides -- mostly from auto emissions and power plants -- mix with such compounds as gasoline fumes and bake in the hot sun. Traffic in the Twin Cities has increased substantially over the past decade, with many of those vehicles having lower fuel-efficiency levels.

David Thornton, an MPCA policy and planning manager, said it would take another two summers of slightly worse conditions than this past summer to push the state out of compliance with federal air-quality standards.

If that happens, Minnesota consumers could be forced to buy reformulated gasoline, which burns cleaner but costs more and gets lower mileage. Many businesses, meanwhile, could be required to meet tougher and more expensive operating standards.

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