Air Mail Newsletter for August 2018

Air Mail newsletter header

In this issue


Air permit online submission service updates

As of May 2018, reissuance applications for individual air permits may be completed through the MPCA’s online service (e-Service).

Online submission makes permitting reviews faster by streamlining processes and decreasing data entry 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. Once in the e-Service, users will have access to help files for every page and field. If the help pages do not have the information you need, contact the MPCA at

An e-Services account can be created at any time. Existing users can use the same account they already created for individual air administrative amendment applications to submit individual permit reissuance applications.


Air quality and climate change vulnerable communities studied in 23 Minnesota cities

Climate Adaptation Framework Menu of Climate Adaptation Strategies cover page

Although Minnesota’s changing climate affects all of us, some groups are more at risk. These include the elderly, children, people of color, and people with chronic health issues, lower-income, outdoor occupations, or other risk factors.  MPCA works in a multiagency partnership to help communities build resiliency to climate change, but they are only as resilient as the most vulnerable within them. MPCA provided funding for studies of 23 cities throughout Minnesota to identify climate-vulnerable populations, resilience indicators, and strategies to reduce risk.

Air quality is an important resilience indicator. People historically exposed to poor air quality tend to have a higher incidence of related health issues such as asthma, which makes them more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. These impacts include more mold from heavier rains and flooding, increased pollen counts during longer growing seasons, more wildfire smoke from longer fire seasons in other parts of the country, and increased ground-level ozone caused by higher temperatures.  

These city-specific Climate-Vulnerable Population Reports highlight data on particulate matter, ozone, diesel particulate matter, and traffic proximity to identify increased air quality risks for climate-vulnerable populations. The reports assess the relative sensitivity for that city’s vulnerable populations to air quality issues, describe sources of pollution, and provide information about potential health effects from increased risk.

The reports set out goals and strategies to help these cities increase the resilience of their vulnerable populations. The main air-quality goals are:

  • Reduce vehicle-related pollution, waste, and ozone formation.
  • Improve and maintain air quality for residents and businesses.

Many of the strategies listed to accomplish these goals are “no regrets” actions that can improve daily quality of life for everyone in the community. The city reports and the Menu of Climate Adaptation Strategies are available on the MPCA's Community resilience webpage.

Update on Volkswagen settlement grant opportunities: Apply today!

Electric vehicle charging station signs

The MPCA recently opened grant application opportunities to install electric vehicle (EV) charging stations around the state using Volkswagen settlement funds.  Support for funding to expand access to electric vehicle technology both through charging stations and replacing heavy-duty diesel equipment with EV alternatives was by far the most common comment MPCA received during our outreach and engagement process.

$1.4 million is available for EV fast-charging corridor grants, which will help Minnesotans travel by EV over longer distances across our state.  This grant is expected to fund the installation of 22 fast charging stations.  Applications are due August 21, 2018.

Approximately $158,000 is available for Level 2 EV charging stations in public places, workplaces, and multifamily dwellings.  These stations are perfect for locations where drivers plan to park for longer than 15 minutes.  Applications are due September 5, 2018.

The MPCA just closed a grant opportunity to replace old diesel school buses with new, cleaner buses.  The MPCA is reviewing applications and will be notifying applicants whether they will receive funding or not in the coming weeks. 

The next grant opportunity using VW funds will be for non-road equipment through MPCA’s Diesel Emission Reduction Act grants program.  We expect to open applications for this funding in the fall.  Visit the website to sign up to receive email updates and be the first to know when the grants open!

Learn more about the grants, sign up to receive email updates, and apply on our grants website.  To learn more about what the MPCA heard from Minnesotans on how we should spend the VW funds and to read our plan for Phase 1 of the grants, visit our webpage.

MPCA Environmental Review has a new website

The redesigned website uses plain language and divides content based on user needs. Citizens may learn how to get involved, and project proposers may find guidance to assist them in their project submittals. Check it out here.

Environmental review webpage screenshot

Check out our updated interactive air data tools!

Air data tools icon

Did you know that the data we collect from our monitors, as well as emissions reporting and modeling results, are available on our website? The MPCA recently revamped our air data tools to make them even easier to use. You can use the tools to look at current air quality, the potential health risks of certain pollutants to you and your family, or what sort of air pollution is being emitted near where you live, work, and play.  To explore our air monitoring, emissions and modeling tools, go to our Air data tools webpage.

The EPA also has interactive online tools you can check out to learn about nationwide emissions and emission trends. See their National Emissions Inventory Report (2014 data).  

Project Green Fleet replaces towboat engines to clean our air

Itasca press conference

Clean Air Minnesota and Environmental Initiative’s Project Green Fleet program along with funding from EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act recently helped replace the engines on the Itasca, a 45-year-old towboat operated by Upper River Services on the Mississippi in St. Paul.  Old engines like those on the Itasca can operate for many decades but lack the emissions controls and efficiency of modern engines.  Replacing them can achieve significant diesel emissions reductions, benefiting the business, its employees, and the community.  The Itasca’s new engines will run so much cleaner, it will be the equivalent of taking 16,000 cars off the road annually.  It will also save the company 1,020 gallons of fuel each year.  Diesel particulate emissions are particularly important to reduce because they can contribute to heart and lung disease.  Project Green Fleet helps businesses make this cleaner choice by funding part of the up-front cost of replacing these engines.  Learn more about the project on Environmental Initiative’s website.

Clean Air Minnesota is a collaborative partnership including governments, for-profit businesses, and non-profit organizations that come together to implement voluntary emission reduction projects and help clean the air for Minnesotans.

New Road Map explores pathways to carbon reductions in the Midcontinent power sector

A Road Map to Decarbonization in the Midcontinent cover image

In Minnesota the electric power sector is the largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, but it is also the sector that has achieved the greatest emissions reductions in recent years.  The sector will continue to be a key piece in the puzzle to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act goals.  To help explore pathways to achieving those goals, the MPCA partners with organizations in the state and around the region, including the Midcontinent Power Sector Collaborative (MPSC).  MPSC brings together a diverse group of organizations to explore optimal pathways to achieving substantial and cost-effective decarbonization in our region. 

In July, the MPSC released A Road Map to Decarbonization in the Midcontinent: Electricity Sector.  The Road Map includes a snapshot of the power sector today along with modeling that explores both where the sector is headed without additional actions to reduce emissions, and pathways to achieve 80% and 95% carbon reductions by 2050 – what is often called “deep decarbonization.”  Check out the website for interactive tools and the full report.  The collaboration plans to release additional road maps for other sectors in the future, so stay tuned!

Interns help companies save money and protect the environment

MnTAP intern

Fourteen Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) interns spent their summer helping companies save money and improve the environment with water conservation, pollution prevention, and energy efficiency projects.  This group of highly qualified engineering students will present the results of their projects at the 2018 Intern Symposium on Thursday, August 16, from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m.

The intern symposium will take place at the McNamara Alumni Center on the University of Minnesota East Bank Campus. The event includes poster sessions and breaks that will provide opportunities to network and interact with the interns.  Click here to register for the symposium.

For more information about the intern program, visit MnTAP’s website or contact Nathan Landwehr at MnTAP, 612-624-4697 or 800-247-0015.

Learn how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from refrigeration

In 2007 Minnesota passed the bi-partisan Next Generation Energy Act, which set greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction goals for the state.  Minnesota’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Report (January 2017), shows that overall greenhouse gas emissions from activities throughout the state have decreased slightly, about 4%, from 2005 to 2014. The report concludes it is unlikely that we have achieved the 2015 emissions reduction goal, and that without significant and concerted effort, Minnesota will not reach future emissions reduction goals.

High global warming potential (HGWP) GHGs are chemicals that trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere even more than carbon dioxide, the most common GHG.  These emissions are becoming more common because they often come from chemicals that were developed to replace other chemicals that have been found to deplete the earth’s ozone layer.  These chemicals are often used in air conditioning and refrigeration.  Learn more about HGWP GHGs on our website.

Businesses can act today to reduce HGWPs. To start learning what you can do to reduce emissions, sign up for this free webinar on reducing HGWP GHGs sponsored by the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council.

MPCA at Owámni Falling Water Festival

MPCA staff at Owamni Festival

MPCA staff participated in this year’s Owámni Falling Water Festival in Minneapolis. The Owámni Festival celebrates indigenous Minnesota culture with music, art, food, and more. Staff spoke with community members about understanding pollution, how people can stay informed about air quality in their communities, and what actions they can take to reduce both their contribution to air pollution and climate change and their exposure to air pollutants.

To learn more about air quality and your health and actions you can take in your own home and community, visit the MPCA’s Air quality and health webpage.


EPA announces proposal for new greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards for cars

EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a new proposal to replace fuel economy standards for light-duty vehicles that were finalized under the Obama administration.  The proposal would freeze the standards at 2020 levels through 2026 rather than continuing to require improvements over that timeframe.  It would also revoke California’s ability to set more stringent vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) standards and electric vehicle requirements and withdraw states’ abilities to adopt California’s standards.  Fuel economy standards reduce emissions of both GHGs and other air pollutants.  These regulations are critical for protecting the health of communities exposed to vehicle pollution and to achieving Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act GHG emission reduction goals.  The MPCA and Minnesota Department of Transportation have participated in the rulemaking process so far, and strongly oppose loosening these standards and will provide comments on this proposal.  The Minnesota Attorney General, on behalf of the MPCA, has joined a lawsuit to halt the rollback of these standards.  Read the MPCA and MnDOT comments on EPA’s announcement of reconsideration of the standards from October 2017 on  EPA’s proposal can be found on their website.


EPA reverses course on enforcement of “glider truck” rule

Gliders are heavy-duty trucks manufactured using new truck bodies with old, higher-polluting diesel engines.  These vehicles have been produced and marketed under a loophole in the federal regulations that limit pollution from new heavy-duty diesel trucks.  These glider vehicles typically produce emissions that are 20 to 40 times that allowed from modern heavy-duty trucks.  The existing Phase 2 heavy-duty truck rule closed this loophole beginning in January 2018.  On November 16 2017, EPA announced a proposed rule that would repeal these glider rules and maintain the loophole that allows their production.  MPCA opposes this rulemaking and has supported comments submitted by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.  Read the proposed repeal and NACAA’s comments at 

On July 6, 2018, EPA announced it would not enforce the glider rules while the agency continued to work on its repeal of those rules.  The Minnesota Attorney General, on behalf of the MPCA, along with a coalition of other states filed requests both with EPA and the D.C. Circuit Court to force EPA to enforce the rule.  On July 26, 2018, EPA announced it would continue to enforce the rule, but would act quickly to finalize the rule’s repeal.  Read more from Reuters.


EPA proposes to keep the federal standards for sulfur dioxide

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set federal air quality standards for six common air pollutants (called “criteria” pollutants) to protect human health, the environment, and property.  States must then work to ensure that their air quality complies with these standards.  EPA is required to review their air quality standards every five years to make sure they reflect the most up-to-date science on the health and environmental impacts of these pollutants.  EPA has been reviewing the recent science on impacts of sulfur dioxide and, based on the recommendation of the agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, proposed to keep the existing standards in place.  The MPCA supports this decision and supported comments submitted by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.  EPA is subject to a Consent Decree, which requires them to finalize their decision about the sulfur dioxide standards by January 28, 2019.  EPA currently expects to meet that deadline.  EPA’s proposal and supporting documents are on their website.


EPA proposes rule on science used for developing regulations

On April 30, 2018, EPA announced a proposed rule titled “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science.”  The proposal would prevent EPA from using epidemiological studies that rely on private health data in developing health-based environmental regulations.  The MPCA strongly believes that regulations should be developed using the best science available and that data and scientific studies should be accessible to the public, but that this proposed rule would undermine the use of peer-reviewed scientific research.  MPCA and the Minnesota Department of Health filed joint comments critical of this proposal.  MPCA Commissioner Stine and MDH Assistant Commissioner Allwood also testified at EPA’s hearing on the rule.  Read the proposal and the MPCA and MDH comments at


EPA proposes rule on economic analyses used for developing regulations

On June 13, 2018, EPA announced a proposed rule titled “Increasing Consistency and Transparency in Considering Costs and Benefits in the Rulemaking Process.”  The stated intent of the rule is to use cost-benefit analysis consistently across federal environmental statutes.  Cost-benefit analyses are an important part of many regulatory processes and the MPCA supports rigorous analyses that consider all the costs and benefits of environmental regulation, including the costs and benefits to society as a whole.  The MPCA is still considering this proposal and plans to submit comments to the docket.  Read the proposal at

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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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