2013-05-09 / Columns

Ink by the barrel

By Allan Burke, Publisher Emeritus

To: American Lung Association

We received the news release below, not from the American Lung Association but from the Lignite Energy Council. This has happened in the past as well.

How can one possibly conclude that theAmerican Lung Association is a legitimate, science-based organization concerned about air quality when the coal lobby distributes your news releases?

I have respiratory problems. I’m the canary in the coal mine, you might say. The air in the part of North Dakota with the coal-fired plants causes respiratory distress for me when we travel through that part of the state (depending upon the direction of the wind). I can testify personally that the air quality is compromised. To conclude that the air is pristine around coal plants, even with the noble efforts of the plant owners to install pollutionreduction equipment, is a fraud, in my opinion. Based on your news release, Cass County should immediately build a coal-fired generating plant to clean up its air!

There is no question that we need coal-fired generating facilities until technology, alternative energy development and other fuel sources make it possible to either stop burning coal or to use it in different ways. I am all for coal plants, but I am also for the truth. I think your study is a lie.


Allan Burke

Publisher Emeritus

Emmons County Record

North Dakota’s air quality makes the American Lung Association’s honor roll.

The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air” Annual Report for 2013, released on April 24, gave eight North Dakota counties “A” grades for lack of ozone, also known as smog, and three counties “A” grades for lack of particulates, also known as dust. Only Cass County got a grade lower than an “A,” and it was a “B” for particulates.

The American Lung Association has compiled the annual report each of the past 14 years, using local data that is submitted to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This year’s report covers the years 2009 to 2011.

The eight counties, which are chosen because of major population centers or proximity to national parks and grasslands, include Billings, Burke, Burleigh, Cass, Dunn, McKenzie, Mercer and Oliver. The last two counties are home to five of the state’s seven power plants and the nation’s only ligniteto natural-gas synfuels plant.

While Cass County received a “B” for particulates, three other counties – Billings, Burleigh and Mercer – received “A’s.” Billings County is home to the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and Mercer County is home to four coalbased power plants and the Great Plains Synfuels Plant.

In addition to the counties, Bismarck was among the top 25 cleanest cities for yearround particulate pollution. Bismarck and Fargo were among the top-ranked cleanest cities for ozone.

“North Dakotans breathe some of the cleanest air in the United States, in part because of emissions control technologies at the state’s seven coal-based power plants,” said Steve Van Dyke, vice president—communications for the Lignite Energy Council.

Utilities in North Dakota have invested $2 billion in technology to protect the environment and spend $70 million annually to operate it. In the last five years, three of the seven power plants have invested more than $1 billion in emissions control technologies.

“The lignite industry has been a good neighbor in North Dakota,” Van Dyke said. “The mines and plants are responsible for more than 4,000 direct jobs in North Dakota, $3 billion in total business activity, $97 million annually in state taxes while providing clean, affordable energy to more than two million people in the Upper Midwest while ensuring that mines and plants are compatible with federal and state environmental standards.”

The American Lung Association is not alone in its assessment of North Dakota’s air quality. The U.S. Environmental ProtectionAgency has also designated North Dakota as one of only seven states to meet all of the nation’s strict federal ambient air quality standards.

The Lignite Energy Council is a trade association representing the state’s lignite mines, which produced 27.5 million tons of lignite in 2012, along with the lignite-based power plants, the Dakota Gasifi- cation Company and more than 350 companies that supply goods and services to the lignite industry.

Return to top