Is Minnesota one of the best places to own a business in the United States? Just hope that the state approves of your business. Part 1: The process of product deselection utilized in Minnesota: coal tar-based pavement sealer

What is Product Deselection?

Product deselection is a campaign of misinformation and junk science for the sole purpose of discouraging product demand(Hall, 2011).  There are many reason why organizations choose campaigns or product deselection but the case that will be examined here was because of a perceived harm to the environment.  The notion of product deselection is loosely tied to pollution prevention and the precautionary principle.  Common ideas among these three concepts are vagueness of definition, non-science based and are prone to abuse by advocates and politicians. 

Example of product deselection

            Some small communities in Minnesota has a problem due to neglect on behalf of various government bodies.  These small communities has stormwater catch basin which is an effective method to contain and use natural filtration of the soil to filter out various pollutants that are associated with stormwater.  These local communities failed to plan for the eventual necessary maintenance that is necessary to keep these collection basins operating properly.  It was around that time that scientists at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) began to take notice of the USGS studies regarding coal tar based pavement sealer.  In 2009, HF 1231 was passed which accomplished the following:

●Restricts the use of coal tar based pavement sealer by Minnesota state agencies(Thompson, n.d.);

●This legislation offered grant to communities to help with the cleanup of stormwater basin on the condition that community passes a ban on coal tar based pavement sealer(Thompson, n.d.).  This is essentially a bounty of the consumer’s right to purchase the product they wish. 

It should be noted that records indicate that MPCA has no evidence to show that coal tar based pavement sealer contributed any Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) to these stormwater basins. In addition, MPCA scientists C (post HF 1231) stated on several occasions that there was more than sufficient evidence to ban in the state of Minnesota (even though there was no evidence to show that was the case).  This declaration of bias was communicated to senior management at MPCA.  With MPCA C publicly declaring her policy preference, MPCA management appointed scientist C as the head of the PAH task force (the true focus was not finding sourcing of PAHs in Minnesota but to gather evidence so that a ban could be passed).  If MPCA has an sense of being impartial, another scientist should have been appointed to be head of this group. 

This is only one example of how advocacy is used to pass laws in the state of Minnesota.  In this case, the state enacted a product deselection program to influence consumer demand.  Advocate politicians and employees of the state wanted ban coal tar based pavement sealer.  In other postings we will prove that MPCA management had no faith in the research that MCPA scientists C and that MPCA management decided that a ban should be enacted based upon the precautionary principle. 

Minnesota may be a great place to own a business, but just hope that the state or MPCA does not have a problem with the product you are manufacturing.  You may feel otherwise. 


To be continued……


Hall, B. (2011). Defending against product de-selection attacks-Where do we stand? Paper presented at the SPI’s Flexibile Vinyl Products 22nd Annual Conference, Bulington, VT.

Thompson, D. (n.d.). RE:  Coal tar based seal coat for driveways and parking lots: League of Minnesota Cities.

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