Air quality in Minnesota: 2015 report to the Legislature

PDF icon Air Quality in Minnesota - 2015 Report to the Legislature

Overall air quality in Minnesota has improved during the past 20 years, but current levels of air pollution still contribute to health impacts.

The economic cost of health effects associated with exposure to current levels of air pollution in Minnesota may exceed $30 billion every year.

Comparison of growth areas and emissions in Minnesota

Minnesota's air quality is improving despite increases in population and economic activity.

Graph: Comparison of growth areas and emissions in Minnesota

How are we doing?

Clean air supports healthier people, healthier ecosystems, and a stronger economy. Minnesota is ranked among areas with the best air quality across the country and the world, and the state’s families, businesses, and visitors expect the air to be clean and clear.

During the last two decades, Minnesota has successfully reduced the level of unhealthy air pollutants across the state.

These air quality improvements have been driven by strong regulatory compliance, innovations in pollution control technology, voluntary emissions reductions programs, and actions citizens have taken to reduce our individual contributions to air pollution where we live, work, and play.

Where are improvements needed

We must continue to reduce air pollution in Minnesota.

  • Advancing science shows that current levels of air pollution are impacting the health of Minnesotans.
  • Evidence suggests that, compared to higher-income and white Minnesotans, people of color and lower-income Minnesotans may be exposed to higher levels of air pollution and are likely more vulnerable to health impacts related to air pollution.
  • As federal standards are strengthened, Minnesota becomes less likely to meet the revised standards.

We must do more to reduce emissions from non-permitted sources.

  • Point sources that are traditionally regulated, such as factories and power plants, are becoming a smaller part of Minnesota’s air quality concerns. These sources now contribute to just over 25 percent of all air pollution emissions in the state.
  • The majority of the air pollutants of most concern today come from smaller, widespread sources that are not regulated in the way power plants and factories are. These nonpoint sources include cars, trucks, construction equipment, residential wood burning and residential garbage burning. These sources contribute nearly 75 percent of air pollution emissions in the state.
  • Traditional regulatory tools, like air quality permits, are effective at reducing air pollution from factories and power plants, but are less effective at reducing pollution from nonpoint sources. Future air pollution reductions will require new innovations, partnerships, and strategies.