Air Mail Newsletter for November 2015

Air Mail newsletter header

In this issue:

Regulatory updates

New online air quality permitting services available

Beginning October 6th, 2015, you can electronically apply for an administrative amendment to extend a deadline up to 120 days or to change ownership, facility name, or owner or operator name. To use these services, go to the MPCA's e-Services webpage.

Please note: Users of this service are currently experiencing problems with Chrome and Firefox browsers. While we work to resolve the problem, please use Internet Explorer (version 9 or 10) for the best results.

If you have questions or comments, please send us a note.


Final Clean Power Plan Released

Final emission standards for existing power plants, commonly called the Clean Power Plan, were published in the Federal Register on Friday, October 23, 2015.  Included with the Clean Power Plan (80 FR 64662) was a proposed federal rule that would be imposed on states that fail to submit their own plans and model trading rules that states would be able to choose to adopt as part of their compliance plans (80 FR 64966), as well as final standards of performance for new and modified power plants (80 FR 64510).

The MPCA has begun our stakeholder process to learn what people around the state think is most important in the development of our state compliance plan.  On October 8 we held a meeting to hear reactions of stakeholders to the final EPA plan.  We are also developing a plan for outreach specifically to communities of environmental justice concern.  The MPCA will conduct an analysis to identify any possible disproportionate negative impacts on communities of environmental justice concern around Minnesota.  This analysis will be shared with the public and will help us develop a plan that will benefit all Minnesotans.  We are in the beginning stages of planning meetings and events around the state to share information and hear the interests and concerns of people living outside of the Twin Cities metro area.

For more information on the Clean Power Plan, visit EPA’s webpage.  For more information on the MPCA’s efforts to develop Minnesota’s compliance plan, visit the MPCA’s website.  There you can also find information from previous technical stakeholder meetings.


EPA releases final ozone standard

In October the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new ground-level ozone standard of 70 parts per billion (ppb), lowering it from 75 ppb.  Based on preliminary 2015 monitoring data, all monitors in Minnesota are able to meet the standard.  Currently, the highest ozone monitors in Minnesota are at 65 ppb and are located in Blaine and Marshall.  The MPCA recently launched a new ozone standard webpage where you can find out more about ozone in Minnesota and how we are doing compared to the national standards.

For more information on ozone, visit the MPCA’s new interactive ozone webpage

The fact that we are currently under the standard doesn’t mean our work is done, though.  We are still very close to the standard and if ozone levels go up – even if due to weather – we could be in violation of the standard.  We may also have responsibilities to lower our emissions to help our neighboring states come into compliance with the standard. 

EPA must review the ozone standard every five years; in recent years they have been finding health impacts at lower and lower concentrations of the pollutant, resulting in a lower and lower standard.  In order to continue to protect the health of all Minnesotans and comply with current and future national standards, we will need to continue to seek voluntary reductions in the emissions that cause ozone.  We at the MPCA look forward to continuing to work with our partners in Clean Air Minnesota and beyond to continue this important work.

Please visit our website for more information on the new ozone standard and what it means for Minnesotans.  For more information on air pollution and its impacts on Minnesotans’ health, visit

Towboat Becky Sue gets new life


Replacing two engines will cut a half-ton of particulate matter

Big, older diesel engines emit a lot of pollution; so much that, in terms of reducing air pollution, changing even one of them to a newer, cleaner-burning model can be like taking thousands of cars off the road. 

That’s why the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) offers grants to help operators of heavy diesel-powered equipment replace or retrofit their smoky old engines. Diesels are strong and tough and can last for decades. MPCA’s Clean Diesel Grants help give fleet operators an extra incentive to get rid of older engines that still work fine, but spew a lot of pollutants.

Becky Sue

On September 23, Environmental Initiatives (EI), a Project Green Fleet partner, held a news conference to announce its plans to help cut more than half a ton of fine-particle (PM2.5) emissions per year by replacing the engines in a 56-foot towboat called the Becky Sue, owned by Upper River Services in St. Paul.

The news conference included St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and MPCA Assistant Commissioner David Thornton.  The grant project will replace two 17-year-old diesel engines with two new Caterpillar diesels that meet the EPA’s new, stringent Tier 3 emission standards.  Replacing these two engines will reduce an estimated 1,380 pounds of PM2.5 per year.  That’s the equivalent of taking 12,000 cars off the road!

EI used $90,000 in funding from Flint Hills Resources, a partner in Project Green Fleet and Clean Air Minnesota, to cover the 25 percent grant portion of the $360,000 upgrade.   Upper River Services funded the other 75 percent. The project should be completed by early November. 

To learn more about the Becky Sue project, visit our website.  See the article below or visit the MPCA’s Clean Diesel Grant webpage for information on opportunities for funding to replace and retrofit old diesel vehicles.

MPCA will have $270,000 for Clean Diesel Grants this fall: big, old diesels targeted


Big, old diesel engines emit disproportionately high amounts of particulate pollution (see Becky Sue article for more information).  For that reason, cleaning up these engines remains a prime target in the state and a priority for the MPCA and its partners.  That’s why the MPCA will offer $270,000 in grants in November or December to help operators of heavy diesel-powered equipment replace or retrofit smoky old engines.  MPCA’s Clean Diesel Grants help give fleet operators extra incentive to get rid of older engines that still work, but spew a lot of pollutants.

Thanks to a 2014 MPCA grant, Highland Sanitation was able to replace two old garbage trucks with new ones. Co-owner Sue Steward said, “The trucks are working fabulous!  And our maintenance expense went down last year, which was great in helping to pay for the new trucks.”

Look for more news soon, or go to our Clean Diesel Grants website for more information.

Become an Air Aware Employer

air aware

People who are sensitive to the effects of air pollution may not always know it.  They know when they feel sick, but they might not realize that air quality can have something to do with it.  A “bad air day” is one where air pollution can make people sick, and one of the best ways to know if we’re having such a day is to check the Air Quality Index (AQI), which provides real-time air quality information.  

A group of major Twin Cities companies is helping to spread awareness among their employees about the AQI by becoming “Air Aware Employers.”  This program started as an initiative of Clean Air Minnesota to raise awareness of steps people and businesses can take to help reduce the impact of bad air days.  Employers who sign on to participate, pledge to notify their employees when air quality in the Twin Cities metro reaches AQI levels designated “unhealthy for sensitive groups” or worse.  They can also encourage their employees to take personal actions that can improve air quality, such as using mass transit regularly, minimizing use of gas-powered lawn equipment, or burning wood during air alerts.  By participating in this voluntary program, employers can get information for use in newsletters and other wellness messaging to help keep Minnesota’s air clean. 

The Air Aware Employer program has seen a big boost in sign-ups since it’s been featured on a Twin Cities website called Move Minneapolis.  This group has a campaign called Breathe EZ MPLS that aims to improve air quality in the Twin Cities, and as part of that effort, Move Minneapolis recently garnered pledges from four large local employers.  These pledges represent more than 20,000 people whose employers are now sharing with them information about the connection between air quality and health, and what to do about it. 

For more information on how to take the Air Aware Pledge and become an Air Aware Employer, visit The Air Aware Employer page at 

Attainment of the Lead National Ambient Air Quality Standards

On August 24, EPA determined that Minnesota’s only nonattainment area is officially complying with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for lead.  Nonattainment areas are areas of the country that do not comply with the NAAQS for a certain pollutant and are therefore under certain restrictions meant to bring the area into compliance.  Minnesota’s only nonattainment area currently is an area surrounding Gopher Resource, LLC in Eagan which was found to be exceeding the 2008 NAAQS for lead when that new, more stringent standard was released.  The facility implemented emissions controls and monitoring of the area has been showing compliance with the standard since 2012.  The MPCA submitted to EPA complete, quality-assured, and certified ambient air monitoring data for the 2012-2014 period, demonstrating the required three years of attainment.

An attainment determination is a precursor to a formal redesignation of the area, and it suspends certain planning requirements for the state and facility as long as the area continues to attain the standard. All current emissions controls will be maintained.  Before the area is officially redesignated to attainment by EPA, the MPCA will submit a maintenance plan showing how it intends to ensure long-term compliance with the NAAQS.  Read the full determination in the Federal Register (80 FR 51127).

Air Quality Advisory event in Southern Minnesota


On October 20, 2015 an Air Quality Advisory was issued for parts of southwestern and south central Minnesota as fine particulate pollution reached a level deemed unhealthy for sensitive groups. These groups include the elderly, children, those with cardiovascular or respiratory disease, and people who are participating in activities requiring heavy exertion. The affected area included Marshall, Redwood Falls, New Ulm, and Hutchinson. A combination of active crop harvesting in full force due to the nice weather, a persistent dry pattern, and a stationary frontal boundary trapping air in its vicinity all contributed to the increase in Air Quality Index (AQI) measures. The event lasted approximately 10-12 hours before a cold front moved into the area ushering in stronger westerly winds and scattered rain showers which helped to disperse the particulates in the air.


For more information on the air pollution advisory, potential health impacts from elevated levels of fine particles, and pollution-reduction tips visit the MPCA website.  For more information about air quality and health, visit To receive daily air quality forecasts and air quality alert notifications by email or text message, sign up on the Enviroflash webpage.


Technical assistance, training, and project interns through MnTAP


MnTAP launches E3 in Industrial Painting Project – apply now!

 The University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) is bringing the E3 technical assistance program to Minnesota businesses with painting and coating operations. E3 stands for Economy, Energy, and Environment. It’s a program meant to maximize efficiency and help businesses be more competitive by using energy and waste assessments in combination with “Lean Tools,” which focus on eliminating waste while maximizing value.  Learn more about Lean Tools here.

A limited number of openings are available for this project. Companies will be selected based on potential waste and energy savings and demonstrated commitment to implementing recommendations. Applications will be accepted until all project slots are filled. To apply, click here.  For more information contact Paul Pagel at or 612-624-4638.


Improve transfer efficiency by attending painter training

The Twin Cities Chemical Coaters Association (CCAI) and MnTAP are hosting a four-hour spray painting-technique training session for industrial painting operations using virtual application technology. Expert trainers from the Iowa Waste Reduction Center at the University of Northern Iowa will be providing experienced, hands-on training using a state-of-the-art virtual technology that allows for realistic, instantaneous feedback on technique and materials use for either wood or metal industrial liquid-painting applications.

The class will be held on December 22, 2015, starting at 8 a.m. at the Steele County Administration Building in Owatonna, Minnesota. The cost is $25 for CCAI members and $35 for non-members; lunch is included with registration. For more information, click here. To register, click here.


An extra set of eyes: MnTAP interns identify opportunities, solutions, and savings

MnTAP is currently seeking project proposals from Minnesota businesses for its 2016 summer intern program. Businesses interested in reducing waste, conserving water, and improving energy efficiency are encouraged to apply for an intern in 2016. Proposed projects are evaluated for impact potential, project scope, and company interest and commitment. Interns are chosen based on their educational backgrounds and leadership capabilities.

MnTAP anticipates supporting up to 15 projects this summer, with at least one project focused on paint efficiency and at least three others focusing on water conservation. Other projects will focus on source reduction, energy efficiency, and pollution prevention. Applications are open now until February 1, 2016 and will be reviewed upon receipt. Apply online here.  If you work with Minnesota companies, please spread the word to those companies you think might be a good fit for this opportunity. Find out more at MnTAP’s intern page, or call MnTAP at 612-624-1300 to participate.

The Great American Smokeout and


Tobacco is the number one preventable cause of death in Minnesota and in the U.S. generally.  It affects not only smokers themselves but also families, coworkers, and anyone else who breathes second-hand smoke.  Every November the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout encourages the millions of Americans who still smoke to kick the habit. This year’s Great American Smokeout is November 19. 

An article about the smokeout is featured this month on This new website, a joint product of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the MPCA, aims to be a one-stop shop for all things air quality.  The site provides information on the connection between air quality and health in an easily accessible manner. is for residents, employers, local governments, schools, and anyone else with a stake in the quality of the indoor and outdoor air we all breathe – in other words, everyone!  The MDH and MPCA are working to spread awareness of and we encourage Air Mail readers to give it a look.  If your organization is interested in becoming a partner in growing “Air Awareness,” contact Ralph Pribble at or 651-757-2657.

Community Air Monitoring Project now in Duluth Neighborhoods

The Community Air Monitoring Project (CAMP) is currently monitoring air quality in Duluth.  Using and supplementing two existing Duluth air monitoring sites, air quality is being monitored in the Denfeld, Oneota, and Lincoln Park community areas.  Each monitor will measure common air pollutants, such as fine particles (dust and soot), volatile organic compounds, and metals, which can negatively impact our health when we breathe them in.  Monitoring will began July 1, 2015 and will run to December 31, 2015.

The Community Air Monitoring Project uses funding from the Minnesota Legislature to do short-term ambient air-quality monitoring in selected Minnesota neighborhoods.  The objective is to monitor and assess air quality in low-income communities or communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by air pollution emissions from highways, air traffic, or industrial sources.  Since starting this community project in October 2013, the MPCA has completed monitoring at seven other neighborhood sites. 

After the monitoring is completed, MPCA staff will analyze results, post the results to the CAMP website,  and share the findings with the public.  For more information on the community air monitoring project, please visit the CAMP website or call either 651-296-6300 or 1-800-657-3864 and ask for air data analysis staff.  More information about the MPCA’s air monitoring program is available on the  MPCA’s website.

Conference on the Environment

The 30th Annual Conference on the Environment hosted by the Central States Water Environment Association and the Air and Waste Management Association will be held on November 4 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.  This year’s theme is “Innovation and Collaboration, the Keys to the Future.”  The keynote address will be given by Minneapolis City Council Members Elizabeth Glidden and Cam Gordon on the city’s Clean Energy Partnership and other environmental initiatives.  This is a great event for environmental professionals to keep up-to-date on the most current environmental issues.  For the conference agenda and to register for this popular event, click here.

In the news

Volkswagen emissions scandal

EPA issued a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act to Volkswagen on September 18.  The notice alleges that Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars from model years 2009-2015 include “defeat devices” that allowed the cars to emit more pollutants than allowed by the Clean Air Act.  The defeat device in these vehicles is a piece of software that can detect when emissions tests are occurring on the vehicle and switch on emissions controls, then switch them back off during normal operation of the vehicle.  The defeat device results in emissions of nitrogen oxides that are 10-40 times higher than emissions standards.  A recent study by MIT and Harvard researchers indicates that affected vehicles will contribute to 60 premature deaths due to the excess emissions.  The EPA’s investigation is ongoing and details on recalls or other actions are yet to come.  For more information on the violation, visit EPA’s website.  For another perspective of what it all means, check out this article by the Guardian.

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