Air Mail Newsletter for May 2017

Air Mail newsletter header

In this issue:

Regulatory updates

2018 air fee – early estimate

To assist facilities in planning their expenditures, the MPCA has estimated the 2018 air fee based on draft 2016 billable facility air emissions. The early estimate of the 2018 air fee is $108 per ton of billable emissions, very close to the 2017 fee for 2015 billable emissions.

This estimated air fee amount per ton of billable emissions was determined by dividing the estimated amount of money the MN State Legislature will appropriate for the MPCA air program by the total billable emissions. The estimated 2018 air fee closely corresponds to the 2017 fee because there was an estimated 2.7% increase of billable facility emissions between 2015 and 2016, but also an expected 2.5% increase in the Legislature’s air program appropriation. Historic trends from 2006 (2004 emissions) to 2018 (2016 emissions) have shown a decrease of 61% for billable emissions and an increase in air program appropriations of 40%. 

As both the total billable emissions and the air program appropriation are not final, the estimated 2018 air fee is draft and subject to change. Invoices based on the final 2016 air emissions and air program appropriation will be mailed in the spring of 2018.

For more information, see the MPCA Emission Inventory Fee webpage.

MPCA opposes bill directing spending from Volkswagen settlement

The MPCA has serious concerns with a bill in the Legislature that requires legislative appropriation of funds Minnesota receives from the national Volkswagen Settlement. Minnesota is in line to receive $47 million from this settlement.  Recently MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine sent a letter to legislative leaders stating strong opposition to the proposed legislation, as it could adversely affect Minnesota’s ability to obtain these funds.

The VW Settlement is the result of a federal court case against Volkswagen Company, which intentionally tampered with diesel engines causing tailpipe emissions that were more than 30 times the standard for nitrogen oxides. In Minnesota, these faulty engines caused the illegal emission of more than 600 tons of nitrogen oxides over seven years – equivalent to putting an additional 300,000 cars on Minnesota’s roads.

The court required states to show they have “full legal authority to receive and direct the payment of the settlement funds,” and Governor Dayton has delegated that authority to the MPCA.  The settlement lists 10 specific categories of projects the money must go to.  However, the proposed bill includes legislative review/approval of funding, and specifies that some of what Minnesota receives must be used for certain types of projects that are not listed in the settlement, for example propane bus infrastructure.  The federal trustee must approve all disbursement of funds from the settlement, and MPCA is concerned this bill could delay the state’s receipt of funds or even make the state ineligible to receive funds. 

States are required under the settlement to develop and submit plans for how they intend to spend their funds, and the MPCA has been actively seeking public and stakeholder input for several months to develop Minnesota’s plan.  You can sign up to receive updates on matters related to the VW settlement and provide comments to the MPCA on how you feel the money should be spent on the VW settlement webpage. 

Make your voice heard: How should Minnesota spend its Volkswagen settlement funds?

Volkswagen in traffic

The federal government sued Volkswagen for violating the Clean Air Act by selling diesel cars and sport utility vehicles that emit air pollution over the legal limit, and cheating on federal emission tests to hide the excess pollution.   Volkswagen agreed to settle the allegations last fall.  The affected vehicles exceed federal emission limits for nitrogen oxides (NOx), a group of pollutants that harm public health and contribute to ground-level ozone (smog) formation. 

As part of the settlement, states are eligible to receive funds to pay part of the cost of projects to reduce diesel emissions from vehicles and to install electric vehicle infrastructure.  The states must submit plans for their use of the funds, and the MPCA is developing a plan that reflects Minnesota’s priorities for spending these funds and a program for selecting among proposed projects.  We’ve had three public meetings, but we want to hear from more Minnesotans.

What do YOU think should be Minnesota’s priorities as we develop our plan?  Complete this quick survey to share your thoughts.  To learn more about the VW settlement and its effects in Minnesota visit our website.

Air Quality Index: Here for you, where you need it, when you need it

Forecast locations across MN

Poor air quality can occur any time of the year in any part of Minnesota.  While it’s true that the majority of days in Minnesota have healthy air quality, those who are sensitive to air pollution know it only takes one day with unhealthy air to impact a life.  To match this reality, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is getting ready to overhaul its Air Quality Index (AQI) forecasting program. 

Previously limited to the Twin Cities and Rochester, this summer the MPCA will be forecasting air quality conditions statewide. From the shores of Lake Superior, to the western prairies, to the Mississippi River Valley, MPCA will have an air quality forecast to serve you.  Starting June 1, the MPCA will issue daily air quality forecasts for 17 locations across the state.  This means people who may be sensitive to elevated levels of air pollution – including children, the elderly, and those with respiratory problems – can be better prepared to protect their health.

The AQI forecasts will now look out three days, and will focus on the color-coded, health-based AQI categories set by the Environmental Protection Agency.  Green means the air is expected to be healthy for all, yellow means moderate, and orange means conditions are unhealthy for sensitive groups.  Red, rarely seen in Minnesota, means the air is unhealthy for all. The MPCA will continue to issue air quality alerts whenever the AQI is expected to be in either the orange or red categories.

To expand the reach of air quality alerts, the MPCA has partnered with the six National Weather Service offices that serve Minnesota to include air quality alerts in their watch/warning/advisory dissemination system. In addition to the NWS helping to get the word out, the Minnesota Department of Transportation will also continue providing notifications of air quality alerts via the travel alert signs familiar to commuters across the Twin Cities.

All air quality alerts will also include new language developed by the MPCA and the Minnesota Department of Health to help citizens understand the potential health impacts of poor air quality and tips for reducing air pollution.  If you or people you know are sensitive to air quality, the MPCA encourages you to become “air aware” by signing up to receive air quality forecasts and alerts. You can find additional information about health and Minnesota’s indoor and outdoor air quality at  

New aircams to keep an “eye” on weather and air quality

Aircam screen shots

As MPCA’s air quality meteorologists would tell you, air quality and weather are intricately connected. So to keep an eye on the sky, two new “aircams” have been installed at the MPCA offices in Saint Paul and Duluth. These aircams will provide not only great views of Saint Paul and downtown Duluth, but also time-lapse videos of daily weather conditions and occasional air quality events caused by wildfire smoke. In addition, the aircams will provide up-to-the-minute meteorological conditions including temperature, atmospheric pressure, and solar radiation (ultraviolet) data for forecasters as well as any other air enthusiasts.  The aircams are expected to go live on MPCA’s website early this summer.

See which facilities are acting for clean air in your neighborhood!

Hazardous air pollutant chemicals

Small businesses across the state are reducing their contributions to air pollution.  A new Clean Air Projects map highlights businesses that have reduced volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or hazardous air pollutants with help from Clean Air Minnesota.  These chemicals have been linked to adverse health effects, and scientists are finding effects at lower and lower concentrations. Businesses that voluntarily reduce air pollution are providing clear public health benefits.  The map shows who and where they are and pounds of pollution no longer being emitted.

If you are interested in making changes at your business, there is funding and technical assistance available. Check out the news story on for more information.

Participate in a user experience test for the website

Be Air Aware logo

Help make the Be Air Aware website great while earning easy money. The Be Air Aware web team has partnered with the web development company High Monkey to evaluate the user experience of the website.  Those chosen to participate will be compensated with a $40 Visa card and some of the testing is as short as 15 minutes!

Fill out this survey to throw your name in the hat, no previous experience with the site is necessary. High Monkey is looking for people to participate in activities that will help determine the best way to organize air quality and health information.  This process will help make it easier for people to find the information they need on current air conditions, signing up for air alerts, what they can do to protect their health, or if you represent a business, finding grant money to make environmental changes.

Thank you for taking the time to help us!

New web tool lets you explore air emissions data

Statewide and county emissions tool

Statewide and county air emissions data for 2008 and 2011 are available on the MPCA website in an interactive web tool. Users can explore interactive maps, charts and tables to view and compare statewide and county emissions for criteria air pollutants and air toxics.

Use this tool to:

  • Explore types and volumes of air pollutants emitted by counties
  • Explore the emission inventory by source types and categories
  • Compare emission trends between 2008 and 2011.

Compact of States and Regions – reporting on climate commitments

Under2MOU logo

Minnesota is a signatory to the Under2 Memorandum of Understanding, joining a coalition of subnational governments in global climate leadership. The goal of the MOU is to limit increases in average global temperatures to below 2° Celsius, which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientists say is needed to avoid the most dangerous consequences of climate change.

As part of Minnesota’s commitment to assess emissions and track progress, the MPCA reported greenhouse gas emissions estimates and progress toward our Next Generation Energy Act goals to the Compact of States and Regions. The group’s annual report demonstrates the aims and achievements of states and regions and supports national commitments to address climate change.

Updated through 2016: Minnesota air toxics monitoring web app

Air toxics monitoring data tool

The Minnesota Air Toxics Monitoring web app provides interactive access to annual air toxics monitoring summary results for over 70 air pollutants measured at monitoring sites across Minnesota. Using interactive maps, charts, and data tables, the app allows users to explore how concentrations of air toxic pollutants vary over space and time. The app is now updated to include air toxics data between 2002 and 2016.

New pilot project will address high-emitting vehicles in low-income communities

Traffic jam

High-emitting vehicles are passenger cars and light-duty trucks that emit high levels of pollution into the air. These cars typically have outdated or broken emission controls or exhaust equipment.  Clean Air Minnesota partner, Environmental Initiative, is launching a new pilot project that aims to repair some of those broken technologies, improve fuel efficiency, and reduce air pollution all at the same time.

Environmental Initiative is partnering with two nonprofit garages that provide low-cost safety and reliability repairs to help improve their clients’ economic security. While funding is available, Cars for Neighbors and The Lift Garage will offer no-cost repairs to three priority emission control systems on the cars of clients that qualify for their services: catalytic converters, evaporative emission control (EVAP) systems, and oxygen sensors.  Learn more about the project on Environmental Initiative’s website. 

Air quality in Minneapolis’ Phillips neighborhood

MnTAP logo

The Minnesota Technical Assistance Program is launching a new project that will target efforts to reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants in the Phillips community of Minneapolis.  MnTAP will be reaching out to several small and large businesses in the neighborhood to encourage the adoption of products and processes that decrease hazardous air pollutants and VOCs, as well as fine particulates, such as dust and fine sand. Staff will conduct site assessments and advise interns to identify solutions at auto repair shops, janitorial services, and healthcare facilities, among others. Project partners include the Lake Street Council and Hope Community. The project is funded through a grant from the EPA. For more information contact Jane Paulson, 612-624-1826,

Community Air Monitoring Project

CAMP monitor location

The MPCA’s Community Air Monitoring Project uses funding from the Minnesota Legislature to do short-term air quality monitoring in selected Minnesota neighborhoods.  The objective is to monitor and assess air quality in low-income neighborhoods or communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by air pollution from highways, air traffic, or industrial sources.  Since starting the project in October 2013, the MPCA has completed monitoring in multiple communities in the Twin Cities and Duluth. 

The CAMP monitor is now located in the Bottineau/Marshall Terrace neighborhood in Minneapolis.  The monitor will measure common air pollutants such as fine particles (dust and soot), VOCs, and metals that can be harmful to breathe.  Monitoring in this neighborhood started in January 2017 and is expected to continue through mid-2018.

A summary report of monitoring from 2013-15 found that generally, except for a few areas where fine particles were slightly elevated, pollutant concentrations in the CAMP-monitored neighborhoods were similar to results from Minnesota’s permanent, statewide air-monitoring network. However, monitoring in the St. Paul West Side community during the spring of 2014 showed metals, while still within health benchmarks, were higher than other Twin Cities monitoring sites. In response, the MPCA returned to the West Side to do more metals monitoring in 2016. Results from this monitor, as well as for the monitor located in South St. Anthony Park in St. Paul, should be available on the website later this year.

After the monitoring is complete, 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 website or contact Kari Palmer at or 651-757-2635.  More information about the MPCA’s air monitoring program is available here.

Check out the MPCA’s new air web pages

Screenshot of new webpages

The MPCA recently overhauled our air web pages.  It should be easier now to find information about Minnesota’s air quality and the agency’s air regulatory programs. 

The reorganization is the first phase in what eventually will be a makeover of the agency’s entire website.  With over 4,000 separate pages across all programs, it had become difficult for users to find what they were looking for.  The purpose of the makeover is to improve our site as a communication tool, and to get away from using it as a giant filing cabinet into which users often had to dive way too deep in pursuit of answers to even simple questions.

Now, MPCA web visitors looking for information about air quality or air programs have a more common-sense way to find it.  Click on the Air tab of the home page for a dropdown menu guiding you to landing pages for:

  • How’s the air?
  • Business and industry
  • Current air quality (Air Quality Index)
  • Climate change
  • Air data

 “How’s the air?” gives people general information on Minnesota’s air quality and air pollution’s effects on our health.  It also explores what the MPCA does to understand our air and help improve air quality.  The new “Business and industry” and “Air data” pages should make it easier for permittees and clean-air advocates to find what they need. 

Over the next few months, we will continue to make updates.  We encourage MPCA web users to take a tour of the new air pages, and let us know what you think – we’re always open to suggestions that can make it easier for visitors to navigate our website.  Please send any comments to Ralph Pribble.

Updated version of What’s In My Neighborhood now available

What's in my neighborhood search logo

The MPCA’s What’s In My Neighborhood application has been helping people find environmental information for nearly 15 years. The agency’s switch to a new data and information management system has made it possible for WIMN users to search for even more data.

Launched in 2003, the original application provided users with information about potentially contaminated properties only. In 2009, a vastly expanded version was introduced, giving people access to information about air emissions, wastewater discharges, and solid or hazardous waste activities. The latest iteration makes some new program activities available to users, including data about emergency management, environmental review, and pollution prevention projects, to name a few.

If you have questions or comments about the application, send us a note using the WIMN feedback form.

Apply to join the Minnesota GreenCorps!

GreenCorps members

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is accepting applications from people interested in serving as Minnesota GreenCorps members for the 2017-2018 year of the program.

MN GreenCorps places AmeriCorps members with local governments, non-profits, and educational institutions statewide to carry out service projects on focused environmental topics. MN GreenCorps service is full-time for approximately 11 months, beginning in September.  For the 2017-2018 program year, members can serve in positions in the areas of:

  • Air quality (including energy conservation and green transportation)
  • Waste prevention and recycling
  • Green infrastructure (including local foods, stormwater management, and urban forestry)
  • Living green outreach

MN GreenCorps members gain valuable skills and experience in the environmental field while giving back to communities in Minnesota. Along with a living allowance of $1,148 per month, members have the offer of health insurance, loan forbearance, and upon completion, MN GreenCorps members receive an education award of up to $5,815 that can be used for further education or to pay off qualified student loans.

Member application materials and additional information about the program are available on the MN GreenCorps website. Please direct questions to

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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

If you have questions or comments about Air Mail, please feel free to contact Amanda Jarrett Smith at