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
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