Haze and reduced visibility threaten the use and enjoyment of two of Minnesota’s most precious natural resources, Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area. Today, views in these iconic Minnesota parks are obscured by haze-causing pollution from power plants, industry, and vehicles. This same pollution is also the known cause of many public health problems, including asthma and heart conditions.
Many pollutants contribute to reduced visibility and haze, but nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) are the key culprits. Numerous sources emit nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide, including taconite facilities, electric power plants, farming, and vehicles. In Minnesota, the taconite industry is the key contributor to visibility issues in Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area.
In an effort to improve visibility in the nation’s most prized, or Class I, areas, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency required states to develop State Implementation Plans to cut pollutants that reduce visibility in Class I areas such as Voyageurs National Park, the Boundary Waters, and Isle Royale National Park, and return those areas to natural conditions by 2064.
In Minnesota's State Implementation Plan the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) failed to require any control technologies be installed on Minnesota's coal fired power fleet to reduce haze and improve visibility and instead relied on a federal pollution trading program, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. This pollution trading program was intended to clean up the air in cities in the eastern half of the country, and MPCA did not show it would have a positive effect on visibility in Minnesota’s parks. Because it is a rule that allows trading, no Minnesota plant will actually be required to install controls. Moreover, the trading rule was vacated by the federal courts at the time Minnesota submitted its plan for EPA approval.
To learn more click "Cleaning up the Haze: Protecting People and America's Treasured Places"