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The American Lung Association gave “A” grades to eight counties in North Dakota for lack of smog and to three counties for lack of dust.

The association released the information in its annual State of the Air report for 2013.

The eight counties, chosen for population or proximity to a national park and grasslands, are Billings, Burke, Burleigh, Cass, Dunn, McKenzie, Mercer and Oliver. The last two are home to five of the state’s seven power plants and the country’s only lignite synfuels plant.

Cass County got a “B” for particulates, while Billings, Burleigh and Mercer counties received “A’s” for the same pollution.

Bismarck was among the top 25 cities for year-round lack of particulate and both Bismarck and Fargo were in the top-ranked cleanest cities for ozone smog.

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“North Dakotans breathe some of the cleanest air in the United States, in part because of emissions control technologies at the state’s seven coal-based power plants,” said Steve Van Dyke, vice president -communications for the Lignite Energy Council.

Utilities in North Dakota have invested $2 billion in technology to protect the environment and spend $70 million annually to operate it. In the last five years, three of the seven power plants have invested more than $1 billion in emissions control technologies, Dyke said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency names North Dakota as one of only seven states to meet all of the nation's federal ambient air quality standards.

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