AirMail Newsletter for November 2014

Air Mail newsletter header

In this issue:

Regulatory updates

Reissuance application completeness update

The MPCA is updating the completeness checklist for Part 70 Permit Reissuance Applications. The biggest change for permittees is that reissuance application forms need to be filled in more thoroughly. Follow the instructions for each form to ensure your application is complete.  If any mandatory fields are blank, the application will be considered incomplete and returned to the permittee with a deadline to submit a revised application. The changes to the checklist will help the MPCA process reissuances more efficiently.  If you have any questions, please contact Cassandra Meyer at or 651-757-2619.

Mercury Emissions Reporting and Reduction Rule finalized

The MPCA has amended its air quality rules related to reducing and reporting mercury air emissions. The new rules became effective September 29, 2014. Generally, the rules affect stationary sources with actual air emissions (total facility) of mercury over three lb/yr after controls.

The goal of this rulemaking is to have fish we can safely eat. Minnesota’s Statewide Mercury Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study evaluated surface waters contaminated by mercury. The study established pollution reduction goals for facilities within Minnesota to help them do their share to restore surface waters to meet water quality standards. The TMDL was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2007. The TMDL establishes a target of no more than 789 lb/yr of mercury air emissions by 2025 for sources in Minnesota. These rules carry out the mercury reduction activities identified in the TMDL Implementation Plan.

The rule requires a few specific industries, including metal melting and iron mining, to define how they can reduce mercury emissions from their processes. The rule also sets forth a consistent reporting requirement for mercury-emitting industrial facilities. Those facilities emitting at least three lb report annually and those under three lb will report triennially. Beginning January 1st­, these mercury emission sources need to begin recording data needed to determine total mercury emissions for calendar year 2015. 

If you have questions about the mercury rule, please contact Rebecca Place at or 651-757-2807.

Upcoming event: Keeping Healthy Skies

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will reveal new federal air quality standards for ground level ozone later this fall. What will this change mean for our businesses, units of government, and communities disproportionately affected by air pollution? Environmental Initiative is hosting a cross-sector conversation about solutions to these economic, environmental, public health, and environmental justice challenges. Confirmed speakers include:

  • Doug Aburano, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Region V
  • Ramin Hakimi, Oscar Auto Body
  • Assistant Commissioner Aggie Leitheiser, Minnesota Department of Health
  • Commissioner John Linc Stine, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
  • Chris Nelson, 3M
  • David Thornton, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
  • Scott Strand, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

The event will be held at the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory Visitor Center from 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 12th. Registration and continental breakfast begin at 8:00 a.m.

This event is free, but please RSVP online by Wednesday, November 5th. Contact Gena Gerard at 612-334-3388 ext. 103 with questions.

MPCA begins pilot to improve Minneapolis air quality

MPCA recently started a pilot project to improve the air quality in Minneapolis by working outside the regulatory box.  The project aims to develop collaboration among the local government, key air emission sources in the city, and the communities around those facilities.  The intent is to better understand and quantify air pollution from sources in Minneapolis and integrate what we know about air quality and human health with tools available for protecting them. 

The normal regulatory approach is to consider facilities and their emissions individually, one at a time.  The pilot, however, will treat these facilities as a group, working with them and neighboring residents to identify ways to reduce emissions and make other changes to address community concerns.  The following 12 facilities have voluntarily agreed to participate in this initiative.  These facilities were selected based on levels of actual or potential emissions and community recommendation.

  • NRG Energy
  • GAF
  • Smith Foundry
  • Prospect Foundry
  • Covanta Hennepin Energy Resource Co.
  • University of Minnesota (U of M)
  • Hennepin Energy Recovery Center
  • Metro Transit’s Heywood Garage
  • Bituminous Roadways Inc.
  • Nico Products
  • Greatbatch - Globe Tool Inc.
  • Owens Corning Roofing & Asphalt

The first step in the pilot is to make sure we have accurate information about emissions from these facilities so that we can best assess their contribution to Minneapolis’s ambient air quality.  This may include doing air monitoring at some facilities and in surrounding neighborhoods.  We also want to facilitate and improve communication between government agencies, the facilities, and area residents. Once we better understand the facilities’ contribution to the area’s air quality, we will identify options for reducing emissions, including engaging technical assistance resources available from government agencies, the U of M, and others.

Urban air pollution has complex sources and is influenced significantly by factors outside of our region.  Any improvements resulting from this initiative may take some time.  However, the MPCA is looking forward to working with the facilities, the local government, and community representatives to go beyond current requirements to improve air quality in Minneapolis.  For more information about this project, contact Jeff Smith at

New asthma maps available

The Minnesota Department of Health has released new interactive maps showing asthma outcomes by ZIP code in the seven-county metropolitan area.  These maps provide data on asthma hospitalizations and emergency department (ED) visits by age group, population, and poverty rates for 2007 through 2011.   

The maps show differences in asthma ED visits and hospitalizations in the metro area.  For example, some areas have rates of ED visits that are seven times the statewide rate.  State and local officials can use these data to inform health and environment initiatives to advance health equity and protect public health.  

View data on over 20 health and environment topics, including new county profiles, on the Minnesota Public Health Data Access Portal. The Data Access Portal is maintained by the Environmental Public Health Tracking Program at the Minnesota Department of Health.

Opportunities for reducing volatile organic compounds at your business

There are a number of upcoming efforts and events aimed at helping businesses voluntarily reduce their volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. Businesses that reduce VOC emissions help protect the health of their employees and improve the air quality in the state, which helps avoid the need for increased permitting regulations.  The MPCA’s request for proposals to help fund low-VOC projects closed in August, but other opportunities include:

The City of Minneapolis is offering grants to businesses located in the city to implement innovative ways to reduce air pollution.  Applications close April 15, 2015.  More information can be found on the city’s website.

The Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) has a number of events focused on decreasing VOC emissions for businesses:

November 2014

  • Training for fiberglass-reinforced-plastics shops covering lean tools and best practices for improving environmental performance. (November 18)
  • Water-based auto-body paint conversion workshop.  (Mid-November at a Shorview shop)

December 2014 – April 2015

  • Painter spray-transfer efficiency training to reduce unproductive paint losses. (Early December and March 18-19 at the Paint and Powder Coating Expo, April session dates to come)
  • Industrial painting webinar series covering alternative coating and methods for improving transfer efficiency with traditional coatings.  (Session 1 in early December)

Ongoing activity

  • Degreasing pilot projects are starting to identify and demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of low-VOC products in industrial maintenance, product cleaning in manufacturing, and automotive repair. See MnTAP’s website for contact information if you would like to participate.

Visit MnTAP’s website for the most up-to-date calendar of events and contact information.

Another successful year for air quality at the State Fair EcoExperience

Tire pressure

As in previous years, MPCA sponsored an air quality exhibit in the hugely popular Eco Experience at the Minnesota State Fair. This year the Eco Experience drew 262,000 visitors, part of a record attendance year at the Fair. 

The part of the display featuring electric vehicles (EVs) was the biggest draw, with a Tesla Model S and Nissan LEAF on display, info about public EV charging stations, and details about the how and why of charging with renewable energy such as solar.  35 EV owners from a local enthusiasts group volunteered over 200 hours to staff the exhibit.

Also popular was a section on how proper tire inflation cuts pollution while saving money.  The exhibit gave away 9,600 free tire gauges, courtesy of the American Lung Association of Minnesota, along with a chance to win a $100 gas card donated by Holiday. 

Visitors to the exhibit learned about the pollution impacts of urban campfires as well.  An online sign-up to receive MPCA Air Quality Alerts enrolled about 150 people.  Finally, a new exhibit on the connection between heavily trafficked roadways and health impacts provided information as well as some “hands-on” elements for kids to experiment with.  

For photos of this year’s Eco Experience air quality exhibit, visit our Flickr page. 

MPCA releases Winona air monitoring report

In response to community requests, the MPCA began operating air monitors atop the YMCA building in downtown Winona in January 2014.  The monitors were placed to measure potential community-level air quality impacts that may be associated with increased diesel truck traffic from a number of silica sand mining-related activities in or near town.  The monitors have been collecting hourly measurements of fine particles (PM2.5) and 24-hour measurements of respirable crystalline silica (PM4-silica).

The majority of the data has been at non-detectable levels for PM4-silica. One exceedance in PM2.5 was recorded on March 7, 2014, but that was a day when fine particles were elevated across a large region due to an inversion weather pattern.  A summary report of the data gathered in the first half of the year (through June 30, 2014) is now available on the MPCA’s web site.  The reporting period is not yet sufficient for a true comparison to the ambient air quality standards or the inhalation health benchmark for respirable crystalline silica. Therefore, the data are still currently considered preliminary.  Monitoring will continue through at least December 2014. 

Community Air Monitoring Project update

Harrison monitoring

The MPCA has completed monitoring at four sites in Minneapolis and St. Paul for the Community Air Monitoring Project (CAMP). The monitor is moved approximately every three months, with monitoring results posted to the website after quality assurance checks and data analyses, usually a couple of quarters later. 

The final monitoring report summaries and raw data from St. Paul’s Thomas-Dale neighborhood, monitored January 1 to March 31, 2014, are now posted on the CAMP website.  Currently the monitor is in the Harrison neighborhood of Minneapolis through December 2014.

The CAMP project uses funding from the 2013 Minnesota Legislature to do short-term air quality monitoring in selected neighborhoods of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  The objective is to monitor air quality in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color that might be disproportionately impacted by air pollution emissions from highways, air traffic, or industrial sources.  For questions about the project, contact Mary Williams at or 651-757-2478.

Subscribe to Air Mail

Air Mail is a quarterly, email-based newsletter featuring updates on air quality issues and the work of the MPCA and our partners.  Subscribers to this list also receive Air Mail Bulletins, which provide time-sensitive regulatory and technical updates.

To see past issues, Air Mail Bulletins, or to subscribe, visit the MPCA's website.