Air Mail Newsletter for February 2018

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In this issue


Exempt source and conditionally insignificant activities rulemaking

The MPCA is amending its air quality rules in Minnesota Rules chapters 7005, 7007, 7008, 7011, and 7019, and plans to publish notice of proposed revisions in late February 2018. The overall purpose of this rulemaking is to clarify permit requirements for small sources of air emissions and develop rules governing the treatment of small air-pollution-emitting facilities and activities.

The rules propose a simpler compliance path for many small facilities such as auto-body shops, coating facilities, and woodworking facilities by providing new technical standards that the facilities must follow rather than writing those standards into individual permits. By listing the expectations, the expanded categories of exempt sources provide for greater environmental protection and compliance certainty, as well as cost savings for both small businesses and the MPCA.

Other rule changes clarify requirements for activities that emit small amounts of air pollution within larger facilities, providing greater administrative efficiencies for both regulated entities and the MPCA.

If you are interested in receiving email notices about these rules, please sign up for email notification of exempt source/conditionally insignificant activities rule updates. You can sign up to receive our emails and find more information on the proposed rules on our website.


New rulemaking to incorporate federal emission standards by reference

The MPCA will soon begin rulemaking to incorporate several federal New Source Performance Standards and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants into state rules. This rulemaking may also include changes necessary to support the addition of the new standards, such as re-arranging existing rule language for better understanding, eliminating duplicative requirements, correcting cross-referencing errors, and ensuring consistent use of terms. Information about the amendments being considered is available on the rulemaking webpage.  Sign up to receive emails about this rulemaking on our website.


Air permitting e-Services updates

Starting May 1, 2018, all applications for individual air permit administrative amendments must be completed through the MPCA’s online service (e-Service). As of that date, MPCA will no longer accept paper applications for administrative amendments.

This spring, the MPCA plans to launch a new e-Service that will allow facilities to submit individual air permit reissuance applications online.

Online submission makes permitting reviews faster by streamlining processes and decreasing data entry, for example by populating forms with permitting data, thereby reducing the time required to issue air quality permits.

Getting started
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. Additional information will be added for the new service prior to its launch. 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, contact the MPCA at

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

Reminder to Option D Registration Permit Holders: Air Emissions Inventory – Use of Control Equipment

If noted in your permit application or if taking credit for using control equipment such as filters, cyclones, or afterburners in your emission inventory calculations, you must follow the Control Equipment Rule (MN Rules 7011.0060-7011.0080) to make sure the equipment is operating properly.  According to the rules, you must:

  • Maintain an inventory of spare parts that are subject to frequent replacement
  • Maintain records when replacing or repairing parts
  • Train staff on how to properly operate and monitor the equipment
  • Always operate control equipment when process equipment is operating
  • Monitor and record results of daily, monthly, quarterly, and annual inspection requirements
  • If a shutdown or breakdown results in increased emissions for more than 1 hour, report it
  • Submit semi-annual reports if deviations occur
  • If using a certified hood, keep records that the hood meets design and operating practice standards.

For specific requirements, see the rules referenced above.  Additional details can be found in MPCA’s Facts About Control Equipment Standards.

Emissions Inventory reporting is due on April 1, 2018, and is done through the MPCA e-Services website. 


Coming soon: grants to reduce air pollution

Printing machine operator

Starting in February, the MPCA will be accepting grant applications for cost-effective projects to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at small businesses, government agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofits.  Many of these organizations have opportunities to use alternative equipment, solvents, inks, finishes, or coatings that both save money and protect the health of their employees and neighbors. The MPCA’s cost-share incentive program helps organizations make these changes. 

To date, the MPCA has provided 21 organizations in Minnesota with a total of $660,000 to reduce VOCs. Together, these projects have reduced about eighteen tons of VOCs annually, equal to more than 18,000 cans of spray paint.  Learn more about past projects on our website.

VOCs are common air pollutants emitted from processes and liquids that can cause a variety of health effects including irritation of the eyes and throat, headaches, and nausea.  They also combine with other airborne pollutants in to form smog.

The MPCA is looking to fund cost-effective projects for a wide range of organizations. The application for funding will be open soon, so we urge anyone thinking about a VOC-reducing project to sign up now for email updates by visiting the MPCA VOC reduction webpage or contacting Eric David at 651-757-2218 or

Air quality forecasting: year in review

Map showing number of days at forecasting locations where AQI levels were yellow in 2017 because of smoke

MPCA air quality forecasters had a successful start to the new statewide Air Quality Index (AQI) forecasting program in 2017. Forecasters brought together the power of artificial intelligence and years of experience in weather forecasting to accurately predict air quality 92 percent of the time from June 1st through December 31st.  While elevated ozone levels gave the forecasters an initial challenge in June, wildfire smoke from the western U.S. and Canada ended up being the greatest challenge during the summer and fall. Smoke contributed to yellow (moderate) air quality days across the state, with the highest number of smoky yellow days in the Twin Cities (13). 

Map of Minnesota showing an example of an air quality alert day

Another unique factor in air quality forecasting this season was the early winter snowfall deficit across the Midwest.  Agricultural fertilizer exposed to warm temperatures and high humidity both caused fine particles to increase and created noticeable odors on a number of days across the Twin Cities.

While air quality was good across Minnesota last year on average, a few days had the potential for AQIs in the orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups) category.  This prompted forecasters to issue four air quality alerts in 2017.  These alerts were issued not only through MPCA and National Weather Service websites, but also through notifications on the new and improved Minnesota Air mobile app. To learn more about the AQI, sign up to receive air quality alerts, and download the mobile app, visit the MPCA’s website.

Apply to be a GreenCorps host site

Former class of GreenCorps interns

The MPCA will soon be accepting applications from organizations interested in participating as host sites for the 2018-2019 year of the Minnesota GreenCorps program. Applications from eligible organizations interested in hosting Minnesota GreenCorps members are anticipated to open in February. When the application period opens, we will notify email subscribers and send instructions on how to apply. Visit the GreenCorps website to learn more about this program and subscribe to the email list.

Preview of the upcoming program year
The MPCA plans to place up to 42 full-time GreenCorps members with various host sites for the 2018-2019 program year. Members will serve about 40 hours a week for 11 months beginning in late September 2018 through August 2019. Eligible organizations include governments (local, regional, state, and tribal), school districts, nonprofit institutions of higher education, and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. Organizations may apply to host Minnesota GreenCorps members who will serve on projects in the areas of:

  • Air pollutant reduction (energy conservation and transportation)
  • Waste reduction, recycling, and organics management 
  • Green infrastructure improvements (stormwater and urban forestry) 
  • Community readiness and outreach

Operation of the 2018-2019 program year is contingent on receiving funds. Confirmation of funding may not be available prior to the application deadline.

Volkswagen settlement update

Participants in the Bemidji public meeting browsing informational posters

Minnesota is receiving $47 million over 10 years to reduce diesel pollution as part of a federal court settlement with Volkswagen.  The MPCA has been seeking input from Minnesotans to develop our state’s plan for the funds.  During November and December, the MPCA held five additional listening sessions around the state to dive into some of the details of the settlement and understand the different interests and needs across Minnesota.  We had some great conversations and learned a lot.  For a summary of some of the key things we heard at the meetings and additional data from our “dotmocracy” survey tool, visit our website.  You can also find materials and notes from all our meetings here.

What’s next?
On January 30, Minnesota and all other states were formally approved to receive funds.  We are currently processing all the input we’ve received and beginning to draft our plan for using the funds.  The settlement requires states to develop a plan to explain what they intend to do with the settlement funds, what their goals are, how they will consider environmental justice, and what emissions benefits they expect to achieve.  We expect to release the draft plan this winter and provide opportunities for Minnesotans to comment on the draft plan.  After we receive input on our draft, we will make any potential changes then submit the document to the trustee for approval.  Sign up here to receive email updates.

Community Air Monitoring Project

Community air monitor

The MPCA’s Community Air Monitoring Project (CAMP) 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 may be 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 measures common air pollutants such as fine particles (dust and soot), volatile organic compounds, and metals that can be harmful to breathe.  Monitoring in this neighborhood started in January 2017 and is expected to continue through mid-2018.

Monitoring from 2013-16 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 at the St. Paul Downtown Airport in 2016. Results from this monitor, as well as for the monitor located in St. Anthony Park in St. Paul, are now available on the CAMP website.

After monitoring in Bottineau/Marshall Terrace is complete, MPCA staff will analyze results, post the results to the CAMP website, and share the findings with the public. For more information, 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.

MnTAP 2018 summer intern program application deadline is fast approaching

Past intern assisting at a brewery

Applications deadline extended through February 12, 2018.
Does your business have pollution prevention or conservation projects that need a skilled set of hands to get off the ground? The Minnesota Technical Assistance Program’s (MnTAP) summer intern program may be the answer! MnTAP’s highly qualified engineering interns are able to dedicate their time and skills to help optimize energy, water, and materials use in facilities across Minnesota.

Interns collaborate with your business and MnTAP’s staff of engineers and specialists to research conservation opportunities, perform assessments, and develop actionable recommendations. In 2017, MnTAP interns helped 17 companies identify opportunities to save $1,590,700 annually by uncovering potential reductions of:

  •      1.1 million pounds of waste
  •      9.6 million kWh and 88,000 therms of energy
  •      272 million gallons of water
  •      231,000 pounds of chemicals.

On her experience with MnTAP’s intern program, Kelly Gilliland of DiaSorin, a biotech company in Stillwater, says, “This is the first time that DiaSorin teamed up with MnTAP to sponsor an intern, and it was a huge success! The intern was professional, well prepared, and organized. He stayed focused on mapping resource usage, collecting and analyzing data, and identifying ways to reduce resource consumption. MnTAP’s intern program is a great benefit for interns and Minnesota businesses alike.”  Learn more about past projects here.

MnTAP is an outreach program at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. The organization helps businesses develop and implement industry-tailored solutions that prevent pollution at the source to improve public and environmental health while reducing operating costs. The intern program is partially funded through grants from the MPCA and state utility partners, which allows MnTAP to place interns at minimal cost to Minnesota businesses.

Visit MnTAP’s website to learn more and apply to host an intern.  If you are interested in a MnTAP intern for summer 2018 and would like to discuss further, call Nathan Landwehr at (612) 624-4697.

Electric cars charge ahead

Family charges their electric vehicle

Electric vehicles are becoming more visible in our communities. You may see one plugged into a charging station at a local grocery store or in a parking ramp, or notice a car with zero-emissions lettering on its side as it travels down the road. Ever wonder why people choose to drive them?  Learn more about the technology, what it’s like to drive and maintain one, and their environmental benefits in an article on the MPCA’s website.


EPA rescinds “once in, always in” hazardous air pollutants policy

On January 26, 2018, EPA rescinded a maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standard policy known as “once in, always in.”  The OIAI policy from 1995 stated that once a facility emitting hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) was considered a major source (has the potential to emit 10 tons of a single HAP and 25 tons of all HAPs), then it remained major even if its emissions dropped below major-source levels.

In new guidance that supersedes the OIAI policy, EPA states, “a major source becomes an area source at such time that the source takes an enforceable limit on its potential to emit (PTE) [HAPs] below the major source thresholds…” 

The OIAI policy was implemented to prevent backsliding, and has been very effective in doing so.  However, because a facility could never be relieved from a MACT standard after a facility complied with the standard, there was little economic incentive to evaluate new pollution prevention activities, like reformulating products to eliminate HAPs.  The OIAI policy also ended up affecting very small facilities.  For some small facilities that were never likely to emit many HAPs, OIAI permanently imposed sometimes burdensome and costly permits and MACT controls because they failed to properly restrict HAP emissions prior to construction.

EPA anticipates publishing a notice in the Federal Register soon to take comment on adding regulatory text to reflect the agency’s decision.  For further information, see the EPA’s website.

The MPCA air quality program supports this policy revision, and is evaluating the overall impact of the policy change in both its permitting and compliance programs.

MPCA draft PolyMet permits available for comment

On January 31, 2018, the MPCA released draft air and water permits and a draft 401 certification for PolyMet Mining’s NorthMet project. The draft permits are open for public comment through March 16, 2018.  Comments can be submitted to the agency in writing or at two public meetings held jointly with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.  The meetings are scheduled for February 7 in Aurora and February 8 in Duluth. 

Details on the meetings, the draft permits and support documents for the project, and information on how to comment on them are available on the MPCA’s project pages or from the state’s PolyMet portal. The MPCA’s formal public notices for the permits and certification are on our public notice webpage.

The MPCA will consider all written comments received during the comment period or made orally at the meetings before deciding to issue the permits or certification.

Clean Power Plan repeal and possible replacement

The Clean Power Plan is a rule, developed under the Obama administration, that would require states to reduce carbon dioxide pollution from existing power plants.  The Trump administration reviewed this rule and is proposing to repeal it based on a new, more narrow interpretation of the Clean Air Act.  The EPA is currently taking comment on this proposed repeal and have three public meetings scheduled to hear input.  The MPCA and Minnesota Department of Commerce submitted comments to the administration in opposition to the proposed repeal. 

The EPA is also considering replacing the Clean Power Plan with a new rule based on the current administration’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act.  EPA is accepting comment on this possible rulemaking.

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