Air Mail Newsletter for May 2016

Air Mail newsletter header

In this issue:

Regulatory updates

Electronic reporting – save time and money!

Electronic reporting will be the preferred method for Air Compliance Reporting with the introduction of a new data system here at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the forthcoming Air Omnibus Rule. This preference includes routine reports such as semiannual deviation reports (DRFs) and annual compliance certifications (CR-04s), as well as performance test reports. 

If you do not already do so, please consider taking advantage of this option to save yourself time and money! Additional details can be found on the MPCA’s performance testing webpage. 


Routine Reports (examples: DRFs, CR-04s, NESHAP, and NSPS reporting):

  • Email your reports to:
  • Include submittal date and a brief description in document title
  • Example: 1-28-16, DRF-1, DRF-2, CR-04
  • Example: 1-28-16, Pt 60 MM Compliance Report

Performance Test Reports (examples: stack tests, CEMS certifications, RATAs, etc.): 

  • Email your reports to:
  • Include test date and a brief description in document title
  • Example: 3-1-2016, EU007, NOx and CO

ALSO REMEMBER:  you only need to submit your annual compliance certifications (CR-04s) to the MPCA. Copies to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are no longer necessary!  For more information on performance testing, visit the MPCA’s website.

Updated MPCA air quality dispersion modeling practices and procedures: ADJ_U*

While the MPCA and the rest of the regulatory community await EPA’s decision on considering low-wind-speed changes as a default modeling approach, the MPCA’s Risk Evaluation and Air Modeling Unit has developed preferred practices and procedures for evaluating the use of the non-default BETA Adjusted U-Star (ADJ_U*) option in regulatory modeling.  The recommendations can be found on the MPCA’s website.

In order to accommodate requests to use the ADJ_U* approach, the MPCA is following the existing EPA Appendix W guidance to provide for consistent and timely review and approval. If you anticipate using the ADJ_U* approach, please contact MPCA Risk Evaluation and Air Modeling Unit Supervisor Ruth Roberson, at (651) 757-2672 or, to discuss your proposal further. Be aware that requesting the use of ADJ_U* will require additional MPCA review time.


New Air Emissions General Permit being developed

The MPCA is working on a new Part 70 Multi-Site Mineral Processing General Permit. This permit will be similar in nature to the existing state Non-Metallic Mineral Processing General Permit, with the exception that permit holders of the Part 70 Multi-Site Mineral Processing General Permit will be authorized to operate at Part 70 sources, specifically taconite processing plants. If you are interested in participating in the development of this new general permit before it is placed on public notice or have questions about the process, please contact Sarah Seelen at or 651-757-2677 prior to June 5, 2016.

Preliminary data from neighborhood air monitoring project

HAPs monitoring

Preliminary data is now available from a two-year air pollution monitoring effort conducted in the Phillips community of South Minneapolis and on the Mille Lacs Reservation.  The MPCA, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Department of Natural Resources and Environment, and the Minnesota Department of Health received funding from the EPA to measure polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the air using two air sampling methodologies.  The project was intended to improve our understanding of how PAH concentrations vary over time and in different locations and to inform future work by the MPCA and our partners.  To learn more about the project, visit the MPCA’s website and check out the project video.

PAHs are emitted from sources such as vehicles, wood and tobacco smoke, asphalt roads, and prescribed burning.  At elevated levels, they can contribute to a range of respiratory impacts, including lung irritation and cancer.

The preliminary study results are available on the MPCA’s website. The MPCA is continuing to analyze the data in a variety of ways.  To date, the measured levels are not above inhalation health benchmarks for individual pollutants or for the cumulative impact of these pollutants in the area.

MPCA staff are available talk to any group interested in learning more about this project and findings.  Please contact Kristie Ellickson if you are interested.

Clean Power Plan Website Update and Listening Session Survey

CPP input

On April 25, MPCA posted a new “What we’ve heard” page on its Clean Power Plan website. The page summarizes key input from the Clean Power Plan listening sessions conducted around the state in February and March of 2016 and provides some insight into the interests and concerns most important to Minnesotans as the MPCA continues to engage the public on the Clean Power Plan. We heard a lot of really fantastic ideas, ranging from ways to maximize reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to suggestions for minimizing electric rate increases for households and businesses.  We are grateful to all who participated and shared their concerns. The MPCA will continue updating this page as we receive additional feedback and we encourage people to continue to give us their input via our Clean Power Plan email address:

The MPCA has also launched a survey to seek input on the Clean Power Plan listening sessions. Were our presentations and other materials helpful or too confusing? Did you have adequate opportunity to share your thoughts? Were the meeting times and locations convenient for you? We need YOUR feedback to help us improve future listening sessions!  The brief survey will close on Monday, May 9, 2016.

Where there’s fire there’s smoke … A look ahead to summer


Winter has come and gone, and with the warm season come wildfires and prescribed fires. Along with those comes the potential for air quality advisories caused by smoke.  The state’s first air pollution health advisory due to smoke this year was issued for parts of western, southern, and central Minnesota on April 14, when prescribed fires in Kansas and Nebraska combined with the right weather conditions to transport particles northward to Minnesota.  The event lasted between 12 and 36 hours in some areas of the state.  For more information about smoke season, see “More than just spring in the air” at

In addition to having nuisance and health effects, wildfire smoke is a potential ozone precursor. The national standard for ground-level ozone was lowered from 75 parts per billion to 70 ppb in 2015. Fortunately, Minnesota currently is able to meet the standard. However, some locations are close to the standard already and if levels rise higher, there could be a violation.  Lowering emissions will be a continued effort statewide. For more information on the federal ozone standard and efforts to reduce emissions of ozone precursors, visit the MPCA’s new interactive ozone webpage.

Summer 2016 air quality outlook

Ozone formation can be highly weather dependent: warmer weather means more ozone. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s long-range weather outlook for the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes is for above-average temperatures this summer. MPCA also anticipates a busy Canadian wildfire season due to a warm and dry winter across the Prairie Provinces. Canadian wildfires caused some smoke-filled skies over Minnesota last summer. With higher temperatures and more smoke, the potential for ground-level ozone production will be increased as will the potential for poor air quality days and health impacts. 

MPCA air quality meteorologists will be closely watching weather and air quality data and, in the event of potentially unhealthy days due to higher ozone levels, will issue air-pollution health advisories and alerts as needed. The MPCA plans to enhance the agency’s advisory and alert system this ozone season.  Stay tuned for the introduction of air pollution advisory/alert area maps and definitive start/end times to advisories and alerts. The MPCA hopes these new tools will help Minnesotans better understand what they’re breathing and take action to protect themselves and reduce emissions on bad air days. These improvements will be due in part to a partnership with the National Weather Service and other entities.

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

Greenhouse gas emissions visualized

GHGs visualized

Statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data are now available on our website in an interactive format. You can use dynamic filters to focus on the information that is most important to you.  For example, you can:

  • Compare the statewide GHG emission trend to the state’s Next Generation Energy Act goals
  • Explore GHG emission trends in economic sectors, activities, and source types
  • Identify significant GHG emission sources
  • Investigate reductions in GHG emissions
  • Download summarized data and create custom figures

New web tool allows users to explore number of good or unhealthy air quality days

AQI explorer

The MPCA recently launched a new website that allows users to explore the annual number of good, moderate, and unhealthy air quality days across Minnesota. The website summarizes Air Quality Index results for fine particles (PM2.5) and ozone. Using interactive maps, charts, and tables users can explore how air quality varies over time and location.  Did you know that in 2015, across Minnesota, air quality was considered unhealthy for sensitive groups or unhealthy for everyone for at least one location on 11 days?

Latest Clean Diesel Grant projects receive $270,000: higher funding amount expected next fall


This year, six new clean diesel projects have received a total of $270,000 in incentive funding from the MPCA’s Clean Diesel Grants Program to help replace eight old, dirty diesel vehicles.  Compared with older diesels, new clean diesel engines emit at least 90 percent less of both fine particles (PM2.5) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) – two pollutants identified by the EPA as contributing to respiratory symptoms and heart attacks.

This year’s grants provide funds for up to 25 percent of the cost of a new vehicle. Other projects eligible for funding include those that replace old engines with new ones on off-road construction equipment. These “repower” grants are usually awarded up to 40 percent of the cost of the engine and installation.  Projects funded in the 2015/2016 grant round are:

  • Alex Rubbish, Alexandria, garbage truck – $61,455 grant
  • City of Buffalo, dump truck – $39,237 grant
  • Coolidge Trucking Systems, St. Paul, roll-off truck – $21,797 grant
  • Misgen Auto Parts, Ellendale, roll-off truck – $37,500 grant
  • St. Louis County School District, 2 propane school buses – $52,630 grant
  • Viking Coca-Cola, St. Cloud, 2 beverage delivery trucks –$56,949 grant.

Next fall, the MPCA expects to have about $400,000 to fund the MPCA’s Clean Diesel Grant Program. Please spread the word and encourage businesses with heavy-duty off-road diesels (e. g. construction equipment) and class 6 or larger on-road trucks to visit the MPCA's clean diesel website and sign up for updates on grant opportunities in the upper right side of the page. Contact Mark Sulzbach with questions at 651-757-2770 or

Innovative projects reduce congestion and improve air quality in the Twin Cities


The Metropolitan Council provides funding for new and innovative transportation projects that both reduce congestion and improve air quality in the Twin Cities.  These projects, called Transportation Demand Management (TDM) projects, are funded biennially through the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program.  These funds take congestion and emissions reductions beyond just further development of standard public transit offerings.

Seven TDM projects were funded in 2014, including a collaboration between Metro Transit and HOURCAR, a local car-sharing service. The TDM grant paid for a technology upgrade so that Metro Transit Go-To Cards can also be used to unlock and access HOURCAR vehicles.  According to a recent HOURCAR study, approximately 90 percent of HOURCAR members use transit.  Around a third of HOURCAR members also said they began using transit more after joining the car-sharing service.

Eight additional projects funded through the 2016 solicitation will be under development later this year.  One of these exciting projects includes bus shuttle service from the Fridley Northstar station to three area employment centers.  In addition to providing a transit option for employees near these facilities, the project will also reduce congestion on Highway 10.

The regional solicitation for 2016 TDM projects will open May 18, 2016. Interested applicants for funding should apply to the Met Council.  Eligible metro-area applicants include the seven counties, cities and townships, state agencies, colleges and universities, school districts, American Indian tribal governments, transit providers, private non-profit organizations, and park districts. More information can be found on the Met Council’s website.

REMINDER: VOC grant applications due May 11!

VOC reductions

The MPCA is offering grants up to $50,000 to small businesses to reduce their volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions.  The deadline is May 11 and the application is only two pages—easy!  Anything your business can do to reduce VOC emissions is eligible: from switching to powder coating to going to water-based paint, changing to a water-based parts washer, or anything else you can think of that would reduce VOCs.  Your business can save money, help your employees, and do something good for the community.  You can find more information on the MPCA VOC webpage or by contacting Eric David at or 651-757-2218.

North Minneapolis air monitoring confirms elevated metals

N Mpls map

Air monitors the MPCA has operated in an industrial area of North Minneapolis since 2014 have tracked repeated exceedances of the state standard for total suspended particulates.  Recently, the agency analyzed a year of data from the two air monitors and found that lead is at intervention levels and cobalt, chromium, and nickel exceed health guidelines.  The MPCA announced this finding in a March news release.

The MPCA has been concerned about the levels of particles and metals, but until recently didn’t have enough data to compare them against health benchmarks for air quality.  The agency has been trying to find out exactly where the pollution is coming from.  Northern Metals, a metal recycler, is between the two air monitors, but there are other potential sources in the area as well.  The agency has worked over the last year with a handful of the likeliest sources in the area to reduce emissions, but Northern Metals has been adversarial, suing in District Court to stop the MPCA’s air monitoring.

MPCA Assistant Commissioner David Thornton said in the news release that the MPCA also recently learned that Northern Metals may not have submitted accurate information for its permit reissuance in 2012, and may have changed operations or added new emission sources, or both, without informing the MPCA.  Either would be a serious permit violation, he said, and the agency is looking at all its options including permit revocation. 

For more information on the monitoring check the MPCA’s website.

MPUC considering recommendation on cost of carbon value

Externalities cost

In making energy planning decisions, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) has been required since the 1990s to establish and consider the environmental costs of certain pollutants, including carbon dioxide, fine particles, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides.  MPUC is required to consider these costs associated with electricity generation when making energy planning decisions for the state.

Two years ago, a coalition of clean energy organizations petitioned the MPUC to update the values it uses to estimate the costs of emissions of carbon dioxide, PM2.5, SO2, and NOx.   The methodology for establishing the values, commonly referred to as “damage costs” or “external costs,” was last updated in the mid-1990s. 

On April 15, Administrative Law Judge LauraSue Schlatter issued her recommendation to the MPUC on the range of values it should use to account for environmental costs of carbon dioxide emissions from Minnesota power plants.  The judge recommended that the MPUC adopt, as the method for establishing the values, the federal government’s social cost of carbon (SCC), with a few modifications.  The SCC attempts to capture all the climate change damages (in dollars) caused by a ton of carbon dioxide emitted today over the hundreds of years that it will persist in the atmosphere.  This is a considerable milestone for groups concerned about climate change. 

Judge Schlatter considered hundreds of pages of written expert witness’ testimony from many interested parties, including state agencies, environmental groups, Minnesota utilities, and industrial groups in connection with a week-long hearing last September.

The judge determined that the SCC values produced by the federal government’s interagency working group, consisting of 11 different federal agencies, are the best available values for Minnesota to use.  The decision allows Minnesota to consider the full cost of carbon when taking action to reduce its emissions.  It’s an important step to help the state lead the way in taking meaningful actions to address its contribution to climate change and to be an example for other states and nations to follow.

The judge’s recommendation on appropriate values for PM2.5, SO2, and NOx is expected in June.  The MPUC is expected to make a decision on the recommendations this fall. For more information, check out the stories on MPR and Bloomberg News.

MnDOT is updating two statewide transportation plans


The Minnesota Department of Transportation is currently updating two plans that will set the direction for transportation investment in Minnesota: the Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan and Minnesota State Highway Investment Plan.  Transportation is a key component of the air quality conversation, and the input of Minnesotans into this relationship is critical to the plan update.  Over the past eight months, more than 10,000 Minnesotans weighed in on policy and investment priorities.  Join MnDOT at an upcoming stakeholder forum to weigh in again before the draft plans are written this summer.

RSVP for an upcoming stakeholder forum in your area.  Forums will be held in Detroit Lakes, Grand Rapids, Willmar, and the South Metro.  Visit the forum website for locations, dates and times.  Each three-hour meeting will include an opportunity to:

  • Learn about public input received
  • Review proposed policy and state highway investment direction
  • Provide input on the direction before the plans are written this summer
  • Share priorities for state highway investments beyond those expressed in the fiscally constrained draft investment direction.

If you can’t make a forum, you can:

For more information, visit

State launches PolyMet web portal


The State of Minnesota has launched a new web portal dedicated to the state’s  permitting process for PolyMet’s proposed NorthMet mining project at  This project is very complex and will need permits from several state agencies in order to proceed.  The web portal provides basic permitting information and directs users to agency websites with more detail.  You can sign up on the portal to receive email updates on the NorthMet project as it continues into the permitting process.

In the news

EPA releases final action on consideration of cost in MATS for power plants

On April 14, 2016 EPA released the agency’s final action on the consideration of cost in the “appropriate and necessary finding” for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for power plants.  This finding responds to a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that cost must be considered in the appropriate and necessary finding that supports MATS. 

EPA confirms that it is appropriate and necessary to regulate emissions of toxic air pollutants from power plants, including mercury, nickel, arsenic, and others.  EPA finds that the cost of compliance with MATS is reasonable and the electric power industry can comply with MATS and maintain its ability to provide reliable electric power to consumers at a reasonable cost.

In Minnesota, power plant owners and operators are completing air pollution control retrofits or ending the operation of coal-fired power plants to comply with both MATS and Minnesota’s Mercury Emissions Reduction Act.  These two standards together have resulted in mercury emissions reductions at power plants in 2015 of 80 percent overall. 

The supplemental finding and a related fact sheet are available on the EPA’s website.

New report on health impacts of climate change

The United States Global Change Research Program, a collaboration of the research arms of 13 federal agencies, released a new assessment of the scientific understanding of the human health threat posed by climate change.  The report, The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment, draws on decades of advances in the scientific understanding of climate change.  The work strengthens understanding of the growing risks that a changing climate poses to human health and welfare, and highlights factors that make some individuals and communities particularly vulnerable.  It includes a section focusing on air quality impacts, which include health impacts of increased wild fires, ozone, and worsened allergy and asthma conditions.

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