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Commentary: Air pollution in North Dakota, an oil and coal state, is down 25 percent over the last 5 years

Renè Heredia Nieves, environmental scientist with the North Dakota Department of Health, uses a FLIR camera to inspect a well site north of Killdeer, N.D., on Thursday, May 5, 2016. Photo courtesy of Department of Health

To hear some environmental activists put it, you’d think North Dakota were an industrial wasteland where energy industry titans are allowed to pollute the land and air with impunity.

Those of us who actually live here can see that lie for what it is with our own eyes. Our state has a proud tradition, stretching back to its agrarian roots, of simultaneously promoting industrial development and responsible protections of the environment.

But then the goal of these activists isn’t so much responsible industrial development but block industry entirely, be it oil/gas or coal or even large scale farming and ranching.

You needn’t take my word for the air quality, though. Not only has North Dakota consistently received perfect grades in past years for air quality from organizations like the American Lung Association, even when they measure in oil and coal counties, but according to a new report from the United Health Foundation air pollution in North Dakota has actually improved.

The group says pollution is down 25 percent from already pristine levels. You can read the full report here. The summary of North Dakota-specific findings is below.

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