A Success Story

“Acid rain was the first environmental issue where it became crystal clear to everybody that we can’t address this as a problem in isolation. In the past, we looked at a problem and would say, ‘okay - the Cuyahoga River caught on fire; well [therefore] we have to reduce the emissions that are going into the Cuyahoga River.’ It’s a fairly geographically limited, tiny package. But acid rain, the air moves everywhere: one day it’s blowing this way and one day it’s blowing that way, and there are sources on both sides of the border. “
- Dr. Gregory Pratt, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

To experienced organizations committed to protecting Minnesota’s natural resources, acid rain presented a major but, ultimately, manageable threat. The citizenry of Minnesota took forceful action through the democratic process, and seemed to value environmental protection over their pocketbooks. Perhaps the most exciting and hopeful result of this political action was that it worked. The air quality is better today than it was in 1980 when the danger was first recognized. The threat of acid rain was recognized, combated, and to an extent, curtailed.

This remarkable accomplishment is indicative of an environmental awareness and a proactive electorate. This is an example of what can be achieved when people recognize a threat to their environment and well-being, and take concerted democratic action to alter the course of events. Furthermore, Minnesotans chose to make personal and economic sacrifices to benefit the environment, costing themselves to protect the nature around them.

This seems like a teachable moment in which one state confronted a national environmental problem and effected positive environmental changes. In setting our sights on new environmental issues, Minnesota’s acid rain story serves as a valuable reminder of the power of civic action taken against an environmental obstacle.


Laws of Minnesota for 1982.

Laws of Minnesota for 1982.

This volume summarizes the laws of Minnesota for the year 1982 and details the Minnesota Acid Deposition Control Act and its provisions. | Creator: Minnesota State legislature. View File Details Page


Dr. Gregory Pratt of Minnesota's Pollution Control Agency discusses forms of progress to combat air pollution. Interviewed by authors.

"We have made progress... the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Protection Act, the Clean Water Act -- all of those passed in the early ‘70’s [and] they’ve all been very successful… The air quality has gotten better over time. It’s not perfect. We’ve reduced the standards, because we recognize that lower and lower levels of air pollution cause problems, cause health effects and that sort of thing, but the story is good in the fact that we have reduced emission." | Source: Interview with authors, November 7, 2014. | Creator: Sarah Goodman View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Maja Black, Sarah Goodman, and the Minnesota Environments Team, “A Success Story,” Minnesota Environments, accessed July 18, 2019, http://mnenvironments.carleton.edu/items/show/26.


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