Air Mail Newsletter for November 2016

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In this issue:

Regulatory updates

2017 air fee – early estimate

To assist facilities in planning their expenditures, the MPCA has estimated the 2017 air fee based on 2015 billable facility air emissions. The early estimate of the 2017 air fee is $108 per ton of billable emissions.

The air fee amount per ton of billable emissions is determined by dividing the amount of money appropriated by the MN State Legislature for the MPCA air program by the total billable emissions. The increase in the 2017 air fee is primarily due to the decrease of billable facility emissions between 2014 and 2015. There was a decrease of 20 percent for billable emissions. The air program appropriation actually decreased 0.5 percent between the 2016 fee year (using 2014 emissions) and estimated 2017 fee year (using 2015 emissions). Historic trends from 2006 (2004 emissions) to 2017 (2015 emissions) have shown a decrease of 62 percent for billable emissions and an increase in air program appropriations of 37 percent. 

The estimated 2017 air fee is draft and subject to change. Invoices based on the 2015 air emissions will be mailed in the spring of 2017.

For more information see the MPCA Emission Inventory Fee webpage.


MPCA amending Exempt Source and Conditionally Insignificant Activities Rules

The MPCA is amending its air quality rules for exempt sources and conditionally insignificant activities and planning to publish notice of request for comments in late fall 2016.

Conditionally insignificant activities (or CIA) are those activities that in some cases can be treated as insignificant, for the purposes of permitting, though have to meet the additional requirements in chapter 7008 of the Minnesota state rules.

During the recent Omnibus Air Rulemaking, the MPCA and stakeholders identified issues with the chapter 7008 requirements for CIA that were beyond the scope and timeframe to address in that rulemaking. The issues are 1) the gap in federal enforceability of the CIA requirement for these activities that emit only particulate matter and 2) the additional administrative and potential cost burden of the record keeping and reporting requirements for the CIA for very low emitting small sources. Sources that may be affected by the proposed changes are:

  • permitted sources relying on conditionally insignificant activities to streamline their application and
  • small facilities such as (but not limited to) auto body finishing shops and woodworking manufacturers depending on the CIA to avoid permitting requirements.

The rule changes are needed to address the federal enforceability of the requirements for these activities.

If you are interested in receiving electronic notices about these rules, the Agency encourages you to subscribe to Exempt Source/Conditionally Insignificant Activities Rule email updates here.  Information on these rules is available on the MPCA’s Exempt Source/Conditionally Insignificant Activities Rule webpage.

Update on Omnibus Air Rules

The MPCA is completing the last few steps of the administrative process needed to publish the final Omnibus Air Rules, expected in late November or early December 2016. The MPCA has made changes to the proposed rule amendments based on comments received during the public comment period and on the Administrative Law Judge Report. The MPCA will send an Air Mail Bulletin when the Omnibus Air rules are finalized and will update the Omnibus Air Rule Amendments webpage.


Pre-protocol modeling meetings

If you’re applying for a new permit or permit amendment, or otherwise are planning to make a change at your facility, you may need to submit an ambient air quality demonstration beforehand. If so, we would like to talk to you before you prepare the required modeling protocol. When you need to submit a modeling protocol or conduct an equivalent or better dispersion (EBD) analysis, we encourage you to set up a pre-protocol meeting by contacting Steve Pak ( or 651-757-2633) prior to submitting a protocol or completing any type of modeling or EBD analysis. One key element of the meeting will be to define the scope of the modeling. We believe this will help save time and effort for all.


Confidentiality reminders

If you are requesting that certain parts of your permit application be treated as confidential, you must make sure that your request meets the requirements of what MPCA is allowed to treat as confidential, and submit all of the information as described in section 6 of Form SCP-01.

The MPCA can keep requested data confidential only if it meets applicable state and federal criteria. State statutes provide confidentiality protection (or “non-public” status) for certain kinds of information. Minn. Stat. Ch. 13 is the state law that generally covers whether or not government data is publicly available. Minn. Stat. § 13.37 and 116.075 describe “trade secret” data that qualifies for confidential treatment. However, even if state law provides for confidential treatment of certain data, the data will be public if it is emissions data as defined in 40 CFR § 2.301. Both the federal Clean Air Act and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations require that emissions data submitted to the MPCA under Title V of the Clean Air Act or Minnesota’s State Implementation Plan must be available to the public.

If MPCA agrees to keep certain information confidential, you must also continue to treat it as confidential in future submittals. Whenever the confidential information is referenced or used in any submittal to the MPCA, you must include two copies of the submittal: one with all information visible (the confidential copy) and one with the confidential information redacted (the public copy). Include the reasons the information is confidential and a copy of MPCA’s letter describing the agreement to hold the information confidential.

MPCA offers $400,000 in grant funds to replace older diesel engines

Driver Dan Hund of Caledonia Haulers poses with their new truck

Clean Diesel Grant open November 9 - December 22, 2016

The MPCA encourages owners of older heavy-duty diesel engines to apply for Clean Diesel Grant funding to improve their fleets and everyone’s air quality.  A wide variety of diesel engines are eligible, from heavy-duty vehicles to construction equipment and even boats.

“Old, fully operating garbage trucks, bulldozers, or barges may be eligible for funds to upgrade emission controls or replace or repower them,” said Mark Sulzbach, MPCA’s Clean Diesel Grants manager. Previous projects have cut air pollution from cranes and rock crushers to a paddleboat. This past summer, MPCA grants helped replace eight heavy duty trucks. Most grants will cover between 25 and 40 percent of the total project cost for vehicle replacement or an engine repower.

Visit MPCA's Clean Diesel Grant Program webpage for application materials and to sign up for the clean diesel opportunities email list.

Air quality and heart health

When we think of breathing polluted air, we often focus on how it affects our lungs, such as by making asthma or other lung conditions worse. But air pollution can also have severe effects on our hearts and blood vessels.  A groundbreaking new study helps us understand the causes behind exposure to air pollution and heart disease. St. Paul was one of the cities included in the study. Find out how exposure to air pollution affects your heart and arteries at

Three construction companies enroll in Project Green Fleet

Retrofitted frontloader

Erin Contracting, Mathiowetz Construction, and Northdale Construction have all partnered with Project Green Fleet, a program run by the nonprofit Environmental Initiative (EI) aiming to voluntarily reduce diesel pollution. These three companies are now operating either upgraded or replaced diesel machines, meaning each is more fuel efficient and emits less pollutants. Their combined emission reduction efforts are equivalent to removing roughly 3,800 cars from the road each year in Minnesota.

Project Green Fleet is one of several cost-effective strategies to voluntarily reduce air pollution to protect public health. Clean Air Minnesota, a diverse coalition of air quality leaders coordinated by EI, is working to scale up Project Green Fleet and other  efforts to achieve their goal of voluntarily reducing air pollution emissions by 10 percent.  

EI is expanding the reach of Project Green Fleet with the goal of removing the emissions equivalent of an additional 750,000 cars from the road by upgrading or retrofitting at least 100 more heavy-duty diesel engines statewide.  To learn more, check out this video or visit EI’s website.

Summer ozone season wasn’t as bad as feared

AQI advisory

During the late winter and early spring, most long-range weather forecasts were predicting a hotter summer across Minnesota. Hotter summer temperatures bring concerns about bad air quality due to smoke events and increased potential for ground-level ozone.

The warm temperatures started early with an unusually warm late April and May. The pattern spread across most of North America and as a result the Canadian wildfire season ignited full-force across the Prairie Provinces. On Mother’s Day weekend, Minnesota experienced its worst hourly air quality readings since MPCA’s statewide monitoring network was installed in the 1990s. People across the state reported thick, acrid smoke from the fires in Canada and parts of northern Minnesota. Mother Nature helped put an end to many of the fires with a warm but moist weather pattern across the affected Canadian provinces, but the summer season was fast approaching.

AQI alert map for MN

As predicted, 2016 was a hot summer and with those temperatures came potential for high ozone days.  Four days in June and six days in July reached 90 degrees or warmer, with many more in the high 80s and even a few days approaching 100 degrees. Meteorologists at the MPCA spent the summer scouring meteorological and air quality monitoring data, watching for the right combination of heat, sunlight, and light winds in the daily forecasts that might create a potential air quality concern.

Four separate air quality advisories for ozone pollution were issued in June and July when AQI values reached between 90-100, meaning air quality had the potential to reach levels that could be unhealthy for some people.

Clouds and thunderstorms on satellite image

Forecasts showed three days had the potential to exceed an AQI of 100, considered unhealthy for people sensitive to air pollution.  These more concerning levels were averted mainly due to showers and thunderstorms that cleared the pollution from the air. Ozone formation requires just the right combination of warm temperatures, sunny skies, and light winds, and those conditions became rarer heading into August. A persistent pattern of hot but breezy days with occasional rain limited ozone production throughout the latter half of the summer.  Because of the rainy and windy pattern, even with the hot temperatures, only one day this summer reached an AQI value of 100.

Despite the early indications of a bad ozone season, preliminary monitoring results from 2016 indicate Minnesota is continuing to comply with the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone

New web tools allow users to view permitted facility and statewide air emissions data

Screenshot of permitted facilities emissions data tool

Emissions data from facilities with air permits are now available on the MPCA website in an interactive web tool. Dynamic maps, charts, and tables help users explore emissions for criteria air pollutants, air toxics, and greenhouse gases released by facilities across Minnesota.

You can use this tool to:

  • Explore types and volumes of air pollutants emitted by permitted facilities
  • See the highest-ranked emitters for specific pollutants
  • Investigate changes in quantity of pollutants emitted over time
  • Compare emission trends by industry type

    Screenshot of statewide air emissions tool

    Statewide air emissions inventory data for 2008 and 2011 are also available on the MPCA website in an interactive web tool. Users can explore interactive charts and data tables to view and compare statewide emissions for criteria air pollutants and air toxics.  This tool allows users to explore all sources of air pollution in Minnesota, including point sources, which include large, permitted facilities; mobile sources; fires; small, diffuse sources; and more.

    This tool helps users:

    • Explore Minnesota’s emission inventory by source types, categories, and source classification codes (SCCs) for 2008 and 2011 
    • View percent changes by source types between 2008 and 2011
    • Compare emission trends by source types, categories, and SCCs over time

    Community Air Monitoring Project

    Duluth community monitoring site

    The Community Air Monitoring Project (CAMP) used funding from the 2013 Minnesota Legislature to do short-term air quality monitoring in selected Minnesota neighborhoods.  The objective was to monitor and assess air quality in low-income communities and communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by air pollution emissions from highways, air traffic, or industrial sources.  The monitor was moved every three months, with monitoring results posted to the CAMP website after the data are quality reviewed and analyzed.

    Overall, with a few exceptions, no large differences in air pollutant concentrations were seen between the community monitored areas and MPCA long-term monitors. Current long-term monitoring sites appear to provide a reasonable estimate of overall air quality. MPCA continues to work with communities that showed localized concerns with specific pollutants.

    Since starting the project in October 2013, 10 community sites have been monitored.  Reports summarizing the results from the first 10 sites are on the website.  The monitor is currently located in the St. Anthony Park community in St. Paul.  This monitoring site was selected to meet Legislative objectives and in response to neighborhood input.  Monitoring there will run from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016.  Extending the monitoring period to a full year will provide a longer view of the community’s air quality, including seasonal variability.

    For more information on the community air monitoring project, visit the website or call the MPCA (651-296-6300 or 800-657-3864) and ask for air data analysis staff.  More information about Minnesota’s air monitoring program is available on the MPCA’s air monitoring website.

    In the news

    Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announces national alternative fuel and electric charging network plan

    FHWA announced 55 routes that will serve as a basis for a national network of “alternative fuel corridors” across 35 states.  As the refueling and charging stations are built, owners of electric and alternative fuel vehicles will be able to drive regionally and refuel along the way, just as conventional cars are able to stop at gas stations at regular intervals along highway corridors.  Alternative fuel and charging stations will be labeled with highway signs, much like gas stations and rest stops are labeled today.  The plan designates I-94 through Minnesota and Wisconsin as a future alternative fuel corridor, which will allow Minnesota drivers to reach regional destinations, such as Fargo, Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago.  For more information and to see a map of the planned network, visit FHWA’s website.


    MnDOT air quality alert

    New study: U.S. health burden from ozone and fine particles could be reduced

    A study published in August by the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and the Marron Institute of Urban Management at New York University shows health impacts from ozone and fine particle (PM2.5) pollution could be reduced.

    The ATS recommends ozone and PM2.5 standards that are stricter than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) adopted by the EPA: 60 ppb for ozone and 11 µg/m3 for PM2.5, compared with the current 70 ppb and 12 µg/m3 standards. The article describes what health impacts could be avoided if ozone and PM2.5 concentrations across the country met the ATS’s recommendations.

    Several California cities have the most to gain if their air were cleaner. Nationwide, improving air quality to the levels recommended in the report could avoid over 9,000 deaths, 21,000 cases of serious health events, and 19 million “adversely impacted days” each year. A searchable database allows people to view the results for their city or ZIP code.

    Full article: Estimated Excess Morbidity and Mortality Caused by Air Pollution above American Thoracic Society–Recommended Standards, 2011–2013


    New rules to reduce HFC emissions

    On September 26, 2016, the EPA finalized two rules intended to limit the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and to include them in refrigerant recycling rules. HFCs are family of compounds that are used widely for many purposes, but especially for refrigeration and air conditioning.  They are also much stronger climate-changing greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. Substitutes for HFCs are widely available and these rule changes will move the U.S. toward more widespread use of more climate-friendly alternatives.

    Under the new rules, the use of most HFCs in many commercial space-cooling applications and in residential refrigerators, cold-storage warehouses, and fire suppression systems will be prohibited, phasing in from 2020 to 2024 depending on the specific use. The prohibitions affect new equipment only; older equipment may continue to operate using HFCs. 

    The recycling component of the final rules will reduce emissions by, among other things, lowering the leak rates that trigger repair requirements for large commercial and industrial air conditioning and refrigeration units.  These rules will reduce emissions from both existing and new equipment.

    International efforts are also underway to limit the use of HFCs. On October 14, 2016, nearly 200 countries agreed to amend the Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting substances to include HFCs. Under the amendment, HFC production and use in wealthy countries would be frozen and then gradually reduced beginning in 2019, while production and use in less-wealthy countries would be frozen in 2024. It is expected that as much as one degree Fahrenheit of warming globally might be avoided as a result of this agreement. The amendment to the Montreal Protocol is subject to ratification by the U.S. Senate.

    To learn more about EPA’s actions to reduce use of HFCs, visit their website.


    Boiler emission standard to be revised

    On July 29, 2016, The US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit released its opinion in response to a challenge from industry and environmental groups to various aspects of EPA’s maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standard for boilers at major hazardous air pollutant (HAP) sources (40 CFR Part 63 Subp DDDDD).   The Clean Air Act requires that MACT standard emission limits for new sources must represent the emissions achieved by the best-performing sources in the category being regulated.  MACT standards for existing sources must not be less stringent than the average emission limits achieved by the best-performing 12 percent of the existing sources. 

    Petitioners challenged EPA, saying the agency disregarded emissions data believed to represent best-performing sources when determining emission limits for boilers.  The court agreed, and as a result, vacated the MACT standard for all major boiler subcategories that would have been affected had EPA considered all sources included in the subcategories.   EPA reports that 11 emission limits for existing boilers and nine limits for new ones are affected by the court ruling. 

    The vacatur will not go into effect until the court issues the mandate for this opinion, so the existing rule remains in effect until then.  The court has received three petitions for rehearing and will not issue the mandate until it addresses those petitions.  One of the principal petitions is EPA’s request that the court not vacate the rule, but rather remand it back to EPA for further rulemaking. There is no set timeline for when the court will take all these steps.

    The EPA website for boiler performance standards has changed.  Find more information about this standard, as well as other national emission standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants and New Source Performance Standards for energy, engines, and combustion on the EPA’s website.

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