"A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall": The Minnesota Acid Rain Story

Tour curated by: Maja Black, Sarah Goodman, & the Minnesota Environments Team

In 1982, Minnesota passed the Minnesota Acid Deposition Control Act, requiring the state to lower sulfur dioxide emissions, and in doing so, raising state taxes.

Environmentally, Minnesota demonstrated a consciousness of acid rain that was well ahead of the national curve. Another eight years would elapse before federal provisions would be added to the Clean Air Act to specifically curtail acid rain. Economically, Minnesota’s Acid Deposition Control Act demonstrated a willingness to hike taxes during Reagan-era deregulation and tax cuts. Moreover, Minnesotans voted to raise taxes on a problem they knew was not exclusively native to their state -- various studies showed that much of the pollution behind acid rain came from neighboring states like Wisconsin and as far away as Texas.

This piece of legislation stands out: it was environmentally proactive and economically progressive. How and why did this law get passed?

Locations for Tour

From the 1970s onward, acid rain started to gain national and international attention as a threat to the environment. A direct result of human air pollution, acid rain occurs when large amounts of fossil fuels with high sulfur content, like coal,…

It is generally agreed that there is a strong environmental awareness in Minnesota -- one that influences the way the state conserves its natural resources. According to a 1981 poll published in the Minneapolis Tribune asking Minnesotans to choose…

The combination of new acid rain scholarship and existing organizations motivated Minnesotans to take action. In 1982, the state passed the Acid Deposition Control Act. This act recognized that "acid precipitation substantially resulting from…

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…