Air Mail Newsletter for August 2017

Air Mail newsletter header

In this issue:

Regulatory updates

New air permitting e-Services coming soon

In late summer, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) plans to launch new electronic services (e-Services) that will allow facilities to submit individual air permit reissuance applications and all individual air permit administrative amendment applications online.  Currently, for individual air permits, only administrative amendment applications for deadline extensions up to 120 days and changes in ownership, facility name, and owner or operator names can be submitted online. At present, the MPCA encourages, but does not require facilities to use online services.

The new online submission services will make permitting reviews faster by streamlining processes and decreasing data entry. The e-Service portal will help populate the database of permitting data that reduces the time required to issue air quality permits.

Getting started
When the two new services go live, first-time users of air quality e-Services should go to the MPCA’s Air permit forms and online submittals webpage for help getting started. The forms page has links to all available air e-Services, instructions on setting up an account and getting facility access, and a list of information needed for each page in the e-Service. The page currently lists available e-Services and help content. Additional links will be added for the new services prior to going live. Once in the e-Service, users will have access to help files for every page and field. If the help pages do not provide the information needed, users should contact the MPCA at

An e-Services account can be created before the new e-Services go live. Existing air e-Services users will be able to use the same account they already created to submit individual air permit administrative amendment applications.


Air permit forms updates

The MPCA website often updates air permit forms and documents. To ensure that an application is complete, it is important that the most current forms are used in permit applications. The following air permit forms have been updated since January 1, 2017:

  • CH-04 - Determination of New Source Review Status - aq-f2-ch04 (revised 2/21/17)
  • CH-04a - Determination of NSR Increases at Major Sources - aq-f2-ch04a (revised 2/21/17)
  • CH-04b - Determination of Increases at Minor Sources - aq-f2-ch04b (revised 6/12/17)
  • CH-04c - Determination of Greenhouse Gas Status under New Source Review - aq-f2-ch04c (revised 2/21/17)
  • Electronic Reissuance Application Review - aq-f0-ecc02 (revised 2/9/17)
  • GI-03-R - Building and Structure Information and Stack/Vent Diagram for Title V Reissuance - aq-f12-gi03r (revised 6/12/17)
  • GI-04-R - Facility Description - Stack/Vent (SV) Supplemental Information for Title V Reissuance - aq-f12-gi04r (revised 1/9/17)
  • GI-05A-R - Facility Description - Control Equipment (CE) Supplemental Information for Title V Reissuance - aq-f12-gi05ar (revised 1/9/17)
  • GI-05B-R - Facility Description - Emission Unit (EU) Supplemental Information for Title V Reissuance - aq-f12-gi05br (revised 1/9/17)
  • GI-05C-R - Facility Description - Storage Tanks (TK) Supplemental Information for Title V Reissuance - aq-f12-gi05cr (revised 1/9/17)
  • GI-05D-R - Facility Description - Fugitive Sources (FS) Supplemental Information for Title V Reissuance - aq-f12-gi05dr (revised 1/9/17)
  • GI-05E-R - Facility Description - Groups (GP) Supplemental Information for Title V Reissuance - aq-f12-gi05er (revised 1/9/17)
  • GI-05E - Group Information - aq-f1-gi05e (revised 3/28/17)
  • GI-05F - Emission Source Associations - aq-f1-gi05f (Revised 6/12/17)
  • GI-07-R - Potential To Emit - Supplemental Information for Title V Reissuance - aq-f12-gi07r (revised 1/9/17)
  • GI-09C - New Source Review Requirements - aq-f1-gi09c (revised 2/21/17)
  • ME-01 - Continuous Monitoring System Information - aq-f1-me01 (revised 6/12/17)
  • ME-01-R - Continuous Monitors (MR), Data Acquisition Systems (DA) and Continuous Monitor Systems (CM)
  • Supplemental Information for Title V Reissuance - aq-f12-me01r (revised 6/12/17)
  • ME-02 - Monitor Associations - aq-f1-me02 (revised 1/9/17)
  • TM-01 - Testing and Modeling Information for Title V Reissuance - aq-f12-tm01 (revised 1/9/17)

Please ensure that you are using the most recent forms when completing permit applications. The forms can be found on the Air permit forms and online submittals webpage.


New Aviation Facility Part 70 General Permit

It’s official! A new Aviation Facility Part 70 General Permit will be available on August 31, 2017, from the MPCA.  Facilities eligible for the general permit are those engaged in painting and/or refinishing aircraft or aerospace vehicles and are a major source as defined in Minn. R. 7007.0200.  Application forms for this general permit will be available on the MPCA website after August 31, 2017.  For questions on the general permit or application forms, please contact either Toni Volkmeier (651-757-2802 or or Amrill Okonkwo (651-757-2623 or

MPCA air quality forecast and alert program launches… and wins an award

Forecasting desk

The MPCA successfully launched its redesigned and expanded air quality index (AQI) forecast and alert program on June 1. MPCA’s meteorologists were off and running as the summer ozone season began in earnest. While hot and dry conditions produced the busiest 10-day stretch of yellow (moderate) ozone AQIs since 2012, no alerts were issued. Forecasters accurately predicted that air quality would stay below alert levels. Along with the launch of the forecast program, the agency’s means to display and communicate the information underwent improvements including the MPCA website and the Minnesota Air app for mobile devices. With the app, air quality alerts will trigger an automatic notification to your smartphone.

Minnesota's Air App

In July, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs’ Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center gave the MPCA air quality forecast team a Minnesota State Government Innovation Award.  The award cited the team’s innovative use of artificial intelligence, automated weather prediction, and meteorological expertise to create statewide forecasts while saving the agency considerable costs. To view a video about the innovation behind MPCA’s new AQI forecasting program visit the center’s website.

As a reminder, 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, or download the mobile app (Apple iOS or Android). You can find additional information about health and Minnesota’s indoor and outdoor air quality at

Using new technology to understand urban air quality

Air sensor

The MPCA will soon start a two-year project to help us understand more about how air quality may differ across urban neighborhoods.  Learning more about small-scale differences in air pollution in urban areas is important for minimizing exposure to harmful air pollutants, particularly for vulnerable communities.

This project will operate a network of 50 air quality monitoring sensors that are smaller and less expensive to operate than traditional air monitors. The sensors will monitor fine particles, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide.  There will be one monitor in each ZIP code in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and larger ZIP code areas may have more than one monitoring location. The MPCA is placing special emphasis on sharing the data with the public.

The project’s goals are to determine if there are significant differences in pollutant concentrations between ZIP codes in the urban core, and if there are areas with unusually high concentrations.

The MPCA and the two cities will be seeking public input on locations for the monitors in September, and hope to start placing the monitors in the fall.  Location criteria include:

  • Proximity to daycares/schools/playgrounds/senior housing 
  • Proximity to residential areas
  • Proximity to traffic
  • Ideal locations for the sensors are on easily accessible street poles 10-15 ft. above ground, with minimal tree cover or obstruction, allowing for free flow of air.

To follow developments in this project and track the monitoring data, check out the project website.

PUC raises price tag for “social cost” of emissions

On July 27, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission decided to raise the values of “externality costs” of air pollution emissions from Minnesota power plants – the first update in over 20 years.  The ruling represents a dramatic change from the status quo, increasing the likelihood that cleaner energy sources, including renewables, will be selected in Minnesota’s electricity resource planning process.  The decision culminated a nearly three-year journey that started in 2014 when the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and other clean energy organizations petitioned the commission to update the values for what’s often called the “social cost of emissions.” 

Externality costs of emissions are the costs not paid by the producer, but instead borne by society as a whole through effects on our health, climate, and ecosystems.  Minnesota law requires utilities to consider these costs in their resource plans to help with selecting fuel resources to meet Minnesota’s electricity demand.  The ruling affects carbon dioxide, the primary contributor to global climate change, as well as criteria pollutants—fine particulates, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides—that predominantly have local and regional health impacts. 

The large increases to the externality costs reflect the tremendous scientific advances over the past 20 years in our understanding of impacts of these pollutants and development of tools to model the damage they cause.  The following table shows the externality values per ton of emissions before and after the commission’s decision.

Table showing externality values per ton of emissions before and after the commission's decision

The new carbon dioxide values in the table are for emissions in 2020, but will gradually increase each year thereafter as damages from climate change rise due to the increasing stock of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  The process for updating the criteria pollutant values will come later.

Minnesota is one of only a few states to try to quantify these damages and incorporate them into energy planning decisions, and the commission’s decision to increase these values further elevates Minnesota as a leader among states and other countries in taking responsibility for its contribution to global climate change and the resulting societal impacts.

Update: Volkswagen settlement in Minnesota

The MPCA is developing Minnesota’s plan to spend $47 million for nitrogen oxide mitigation from its share of the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal.  VW diesel vehicles were found to be emitting 40 times as much nitrogen oxides as allowed under federal law.  To make up for this excess pollution, states are receiving funds to reduce diesel emissions and install electric vehicle charging stations. 

The MPCA has been hearing from Minnesotans on what they feel are the most important issues the state should consider when using the funds.  We have received over 200 comment letters and over 400 people have participated in our “dotmocracy” survey. MPCA is hearing about the importance of environmental justice, health outcomes, and cost effectiveness, along with other issues, including the benefits of alternative fuels.  Check out comment and survey summaries on our website.

VW settlement survey results

Sign up to receive updates about the VW settlement in Minnesota here.  Learn more about the settlement and what it means for Minnesota, explore some data, and learn how to get involved by visiting our website.

Something’s in the air at the Eco Experience

Eco Experience air quality display featuring wood burning stoves

Wow, school supplies are already on sale!  What happened to summer?  Come close out summer with a visit to the Eco Experience at the State Fair.  Among a full slate of air quality displays, featured exhibits this year include:

Air quality forecasting live
MPCA staff will demonstrate how they create the daily air quality index (AQI) forecasts with a live and interactive display using the latest techniques and technologies. Meteorologists will explain the various pieces of the puzzle that go into AQI forecasting, including monitoring measurements, satellite and radar imagery, forecast models, and how pollutants such as particulate matter and ground-level ozone are affected by weather. Fair-goers can ask questions of the experts  and even make and analyze their own weather/air quality maps.  The meteorologists will be there from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursdays, August 24 and 31. The display, however, will be available throughout the fair.

Busy roads and air quality
The Busy Roads exhibit is back this year, with new and improved features. Learn how vehicle emissions can affect people who live, work, or recreate near roadways. The exhibit emphasizes the potential role of climate change in increasing health risks due to those vehicle emissions: if climate trends continue, hotter Minnesota summers may worsen the risks. Emissions from busy roadways can increase your risk of respiratory or cardiovascular health issues, especially with prolonged exposure.

Public training! Effectively commenting on permits

The MPCA, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, tribal and local government employees, and community partners, is planning a training on how citizens can provide effective comments on air permits. The training is tentatively scheduled for Fall 2017 in the Twin Cities. We hope this training will help demystify the permitting process, and create more transparency and accountability for everyone involved. While it’s focused on air permits, many of the principles presented in the training would be applicable to other types of permits, projects, or policies that go on public notice. We also hope to cover citizen concerns after permits are issued: where to direct concerns, what information to include, and how to work with the state, cities, and permittees to resolve concerns.

Contact Cassandra Meyer ( or 651-757-2619) with any questions, to be notified when more details are confirmed, or if your facility is interested in presenting the perspective of regulated parties during the training.

Traffic and your health – be air aware!

Be Air Aware logo

Did you know where you live and recreate in relation to traffic can impact your health? New traffic data and maps from the Minnesota Department of Health’s Public Health Data Access Portal provide traffic exposure estimates for every Minnesota census tract, zip code, and county. Check out the traffic exposure news story on

MPCA to launch vehicle emission tampering prevention program

Vehicles on a highway

With the MPCA recording rising complaints about vehicle emissions system tampering, the agency’s compliance and enforcement program has joined forces with our mobile source and business assistance staff and will soon launch an outreach campaign about the problem. 

Transportation is responsible for about a third of the air pollution in Minnesota.  That means catalytic converters, diesel particulate filters, proper use of diesel exhaust fluid, and several other vehicle emission control components are front-line defenses for Minnesota’s clean air.  Tampering with these systems affects our air quality and is both a federal and state offense.

Today’s vehicles are designed for the best possible balance between performance, mileage, and low emissions.  But tampering or disabling the emissions control system can void warranties, reduce fuel economy, and throw off the engine’s optimal design performance while increasing harmful emissions by more than 800 percent in some cases.

Not only is tampering with emissions control systems illegal, it’s also unlawful to sell a car with a non-intact emissions system.  Minnesota Rule 7023.0120 prohibits the sale, rent, lease, or transfer of a vehicle title unless the emission controls are in place and working properly.

The outreach campaign will use direct mail letters, news releases, updated fact sheets, and new web content to help get the word out to vehicle owners, technicians, and dealers that tampering with vehicle emission control systems, or selling vehicles that have been tampered with, is not only illegal, it’s harmful to human health and the environment.

Energy Fair comes to St. Paul this September

Energy Fair logo

If you like the Eco Experience at the State Fair, chances are you’ll also enjoy a new event in St. Paul the weekend after the fair ends.  After a successful 28-year run in Wisconsin drawing an average of 13,000 visitors annually, the Energy Fair now comes to the Twin Cities with an appearance on Harriet Island over the second weekend in September.

The Energy Fair provides workshops and displays on sustainable living, renewable energy, and energy efficiency in a festival setting. More than 80 workshops and 60 exhibits, along with local food and family-friendly activities, will be available to the public free of charge. A bonus All Access Pass gets you into live music, keynote speakers, and 20 hours of professional solar programming.

Explore the connection between air quality and health at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s booth.  While there you can sign up for Minnesota air quality forecasts and alerts, or download the mobile app. 

Free workshop topics will include clean energy basics, community solar, gardening, clean transportation, environmental justice, “energy democracy,” community resilience, and others, presented by topic experts from the Twin Cities and around the Midwest. Some examples of workshops include Backyard Composting Basics, Intro to Solar for Your Home or Business, How to Save Money with Energy Efficiency, and Youth Organizing in the Climate Movement.  You’ll find a preliminary schedule of workshops at 

The Energy Fair is organized by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, in partnership with an advisory committee that includes the MPCA and a variety of energy- and sustainability-minded nonprofits.  The Energy Fair will be held at Harriet Island Park in St. Paul, September 9-10, with a Solar Professional Day on September 8.  

Upcoming event: Air quality in northern Minnesota

Backyard fire

Learn more about air quality and opportunities for reducing pollution in northern Minnesota!  The MPCA, Blandin Foundation, Environmental Initiative, and other partners are hosting a Clean Air Collaborative event in Grand Rapids on August 15th. 

Most of the air pollution in Minnesota comes not from smokestacks, but instead from our everyday activities, including cars and trucks, wood burning, and some small businesses.  These sources are of particular concern for our health because they are often located near where we live, work, and play.  This can even be the case in the wide-open spaces of northern Minnesota.

The event will bring participants a chance to explore new opportunities for voluntary emissions reductions, including grant opportunities and other project funding, and to learn about the economic benefits of clean and healthy air in northern Minnesota.   For more information and to register for this event, visit the Clean Air Collaborative website.

What’s a “nonpoint source” anyway?

Nonpoint source is a term we at the MPCA and many of our partners have used for years to describe any source that isn’t a large, smokestack-type source.  But to others, does “nonpoint source” even mean anything? 

“This is an example of how we get so used to our own jargon,” said MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine.  “Its meaning is perfectly clear to us, but the average person has no idea.  Under Governor Dayton’s leadership, state agencies are committing to using ‘plain language.’  The way we talk about air pollution was a good place to apply that principle.”

Everyday sources of air pollution

So, in an effort to come up with a more plain-language way to convey the “not a smokestack” nature of these sources, we did some checking around. We benchmarked other states, solicited feedback internally, and kicked it around with some creative types.  As part of this effort, you may recall we surveyed Air Mail readers (about 2,000 subscribers) on their preference.  The survey  described what we were looking for and asked you to choose between “everyday” and “neighborhood.” 

Fifty-three of you weighed in.  About 60% preferred “everyday” pollution.  So “everyday” pollution is the preferred term to replace “nonpoint source.”  However, since “neighborhood” wasn’t far behind, it may be best in some circumstances. 

We suggest that the first time you use these terms, whether in print or verbally, pair it with examples, like this: “Everyday (or neighborhood) pollution, such as the cars we drive, the housing we live in, and the backyard fires we burn.”  Then, in subsequent references, just call them “everyday” or “neighborhood” sources.   The goal is simply to communicate more clearly about air quality.

Final Air Monitoring Network Plan available

Air Monitoring Network Plan cover

The final version of the 2018 Air Monitoring Network Plan for Minnesota is now available on the MPCA website.  If you’re worried about air quality in your area or are curious about how the MPCA monitors air quality across the state, this document is for you.

The MPCA operates air quality monitors across the state that test for a wide variety of air pollutants.  Some of these monitors allow us to compare Minnesota’s air quality to national standards in order to ensure that we continue to comply with those health-based requirements.  Others allow us to better understand air pollutants that do not have federal standards, but nonetheless can affect the health of Minnesotans.

The purpose of this annual report is to demonstrate compliance with air monitoring network regulations, describe  changes for the upcoming year, and provide specific information on each of Minnesota's existing and proposed air quality monitoring sites. The plan also summarizes monitoring data for several pollutants to show current conditions relative to state and federal air quality standards.

Comments from the public regarding this plan and the Minnesota Air Monitoring Network are welcomed throughout the year.  For more information, please contact Rick Strassman, MPCA Air Monitoring Unit Supervisor at 651-757-2760.

In the news

Fixes approved for most Volkswagen diesel vehicles

U.S. EPA and the California Air Resources Board recently approved fixes for most of the VW diesel cars that were found to be violating federal emissions standards.  The fix will bring the vehicles into compliance with those standards, but will reduce the fuel economy of the vehicles.  Learn more at Reuters.


Britain and France plan to ban new gas and diesel cars by 2040

To improve air quality and reduce air pollution, including greenhouse gases, both Britain and France have announced they plan to ban the sale of new gas and diesel cars by 2040.  Several large cities, including Paris, Madrid, Mexico City, and Athens have announced they will ban diesel vehicles by 2025 to reduce air pollution.  Read more at Reuters.

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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.

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