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Our view: Good to get ahead of big clean-air changes

Changes are coming, possibly big changes, and perhaps as quickly as late this summer. That's the soonest updated federal clean-air standards are expected to be released following their once-every-five-...

Changes are coming, possibly big changes, and perhaps as quickly as late this summer. That's the soonest updated federal clean-air standards are expected to be released following their once-every-five-

years review.

While waiting, those sure to be affected have two choices, the Minneapolis-based nonprofit Environmental Initiative figures. They can wait and see and then react. Or they can start planning and strategizing now.

"We say, 'Let's not wait,' " Environmental Initiative Executive Director Mike Harley said last week in an interview with the News Tribune Opinion page. "We don't know what the new standards are yet and we don't know when they'll arrive. But let's get out ahead. Let's be as ready as we can be."

To that end, Environmental Initiative did what it's been doing so well for

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20 years. It pulled together stakeholders, not to advocate, but to plan, to talk, and to start working together. An initial meeting in anticipation of the new clean-air standards was held April 18 in the Twin Cities. A second meeting was last week in Duluth, in a conference room at Minnesota Power. A third meeting is this week. In addition, Environmental Initiative launched the Minnesota Clean Air Dialogue, an online way for anyone to participate (environmental-initiative.org/projects/minnesotas-clean-air-dialogue).

About 40 people attended last week's meeting in Duluth. Harley praised the gathering for its "sophisticated conversation" and for having "more dialogue" than the meeting in the Twin Cities. Represented at the meeting were ArcelorMittal Minorca Mine, Barr Engineering, the Duluth Steam Cooperative Association, Environmental Initiative, Essar Steel Minnesota, the Fond du Lac Band, Georgia-Pacific Wood Products, Glumac Executive Enterprise, Jenny L. Reinertsen, Koch Companies, Louisiana Pacific Corp., the Mille Lacs Band, the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Power, Sappi Cloquet LLC, Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc., the Sierra Club, Superior Mineral Resources, the University of Wisconsin-Superior, the U.S. Forest Service and Wenck Associates.

All can be credited for their willingness to think ahead, to plan early and to get out in front of something that could be quite the undertaking. It's possible that despite decades of improving air quality and reduced emissions (a recent high-profile project aimed to reduce the pollution spewed by school buses, for example), Minnesota's standards may not be in compliance with the new federal requirements. The Pollution Control Agency will make that determination. Should the state be required to submit a plan to address air-quality shortcomings, conversations and work now could be a leg up on getting that done.

"It's good news and bad news," Harley said. "The good news is we've done well. The bad news is we may have to do more."

That's all the more reason to get talking now and to get working sooner rather than later.

Related Topics: ENVIRONMENTOUR VIEW
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