Air Mail Newsletter for February 2019

Air Mail newsletter header

In this issue


New e-Service for permit termination requests

Permit void/termination requests is now available via the MPCA’s e-Services. All air permit holders will be able to create/log into their accounts to apply for a permit termination. Additional instructions will be provided online in the near future. During the transition period, the agency will accept either paper (form VR-01) or the e-services application. However, starting June 1, 2019, the online service will be mandatory for permit termination requests. Permit terminations are not automatic. Following submittal, the agency will review the request and the assigned permit staff will send a confirmation letter.


Apply today: grants for vapor recovery at gasoline dispensing facilities

Gasoline fueling

MPCA is now accepting applications for funding to install or repair stage 1 vapor recovery systems at gasoline filling stations across Minnesota.

The maximum award is $24,000 with a 50% minimum match. The most cost-effective projects located in areas of concern for environmental justice and health effects related to air pollution will score highest.

Eligible applicants:

  • Businesses under 500 employees
  • Governmental agencies or tribal nations
  • Educational institutions
  • Non-governmental organizations (e.g., nonprofits, trade groups, industry associations) 

Apply now! Deadline: February 21, 2019.

Stage 1 vapor recovery systems are required for many gasoline dispensing facilities in Minnesota. This grant funding is available to assist facilities in meeting or exceeding requirements.

Vapor recovery systems capture up to 95 percent of the volatile organic compound emissions (VOCs) released during gasoline transfer from delivery vehicles into underground storage tanks. These systems can protect employee and customer health, and can generate positive publicity for your business. Through more efficient transfer, they may also reduce moisture buildup in the tank system, preventing potential water management costs. 

Review grant materials, application, and Q&A on the MPCA grants for vapor recovery webpage. During evaluation, the MPCA will determine each applicant’s emissions reductions and cost-effectiveness, using the MPCA underground storage tank emissions reduction calculator.

VW settlement grant survey: help us improve the program!

School bus

Did you apply for a VW Settlement grant? Did you want to, but decided not to? Did you hear about the grants and want to apply in a future round? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, we want to hear from you!

Please complete this short, three-minute survey to let the MPCA know about your thoughts on the VW settlement grant application process. The MPCA would like to hear about your experience with the application, whether you ended up applying or not, in order to make improvements for future grant rounds and as we begin to develop phase 2 of the program. This survey is for anyone who applied for a school bus replacement grant, an electric vehicle charging station grant, or a clean diesel non-road grant, or had interest in these grants.  Responses are anonymous.  The survey will be open until April 5, 2019 and we encourage you to share it with others.

An air quality alert trifecta in 2018: ozone, wildfire smoke, and – for the first time in four years – winter stagnation

Air quality alert map of Minnesota

In recent years, Minnesota’s “bad air days” have been caused by wildfire smoke and ground-level ozone during the spring, summer, and early fall months. Minnesota hadn’t seen an air quality alert caused by wintertime stagnation in four years. In December of 2018, however, wintertime stagnation took center stage, causing two days of bad air. MPCA issued an air quality alert as warmer air crept across Minnesota and the western and central Great Lakes region. Across the region, hazy skies with frozen fog were common. It had been several years since meteorological conditions developed for such an event to take place -- this was the first air quality alert due to winter stagnation since 2014. The winter air quality alert also increased the total number of alert days in 2018 to a record-breaking 12 – passing 2010, the previous record year, by three.

Wintertime stagnation 101: Wintertime stagnation traps pollutants near the surface of the earth and prevents them from mixing and dispersing into the middle part of the atmosphere.  Atmospheric inversions are the primary meteorological cause of winter stagnation.  Inversions occur when temperatures near the earth’s surface are colder than they are higher up.  This temperature difference prevents air from rising away from the earth’s surface and mixing, which normally clears out pollutants.  The situation can be made worse if there is snow cover that melts a bit, which can increase water vapor in the lower levels of the atmosphere.  The pollutants trapped near the surface will “stick” to these water vapor droplets and make for a hazy, sometimes foggy day.

MPCA meteorologists monitor atmospheric scenarios and provide forecasts of the bad air quality conditions several days in advance to provide an early warning for the public, especially those who are sensitive to poor air quality. To track the latest air quality measures and obtain the daily forecast, visit the MPCA’s website or download the Minnesota Air app to your mobile device.

Mobile phone air quality alerts

Need help clearing the air? Apply today to host an intern

MnTAP intern

When asked why an organization would invest time, money, and personnel towards hosting an intern, they often say they needed someone to address waste reduction and energy efficiency projects without having to commit current or new staff time and resources. An intern can research and recommend actions to improve efficiency, save money, reduce waste, or decrease regulatory compliance burden. In 2018, Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) interns identified process improvement opportunities that would save a total of $1.5 million for their host organizations.

MnTAP is now accepting applications from businesses, non-profits, and governments to host interns for the summer.  MnTAP anticipates supporting up to 15 projects that could focus on air pollution, water conservation, energy efficiency, solid waste, and pollution prevention.

MnTAP is accepting applications through February 15, but organizations should apply today for the best chance of being selected. For more information about the intern program or the application process, visit MnTAP’s website or contact Nathan Landwehr, MnTAP Intern Program Administrator, at 612-624-4697 or

In case you missed it: MPCA releases air and greenhouse gas reports

Air We Breathe report cover image

In early January, MPCA released two biennial reports, “The Air We Breathe: The State of Minnesota’s Air Quality, 2019” and “Greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota: 1990-2016.”  Both reports are accompanied by new and updated MPCA webpages. 

“The Air We Breathe” explains that Minnesota’s air quality is good overall, but it is not the same in all parts of the state and doesn’t affect all Minnesotans equally.  Read more here.

GHG emissions inventory report cover image

“Greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota: 1990-2016” finds that although total greenhouse gas emissions have decreased since 2005, Minnesota did not reach its Next Generation Energy Act goal of a 15% reduction from 2005 by 2015.  All the data behind the report can be explored on the MPCA’s website.  Find the report here.

The MPCA presented on the two reports at the Minnesota House of Representatives on January 22, 2019.  See the presentation and other materials from the hearing here.

Building environmental partnerships through data

Training participants

Is air quality improving? How does air monitoring data compare across the state? Sharing data and skillsets between organizations is a key element to answering these types of questions and working to protect and improve Minnesota’s environment. In January, the MPCA collaborated with local tribal environmental agencies and the national Tribal Air Monitoring Support Center to hold an environmental data training at the Fond du Lac Technical and Community College. MPCA staff presented “Environmental Data Analysis in R” to a range of environmental professionals working across federal and tribal governments in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Adopting the use of R (an open-source software for data analysis) and other open-source tools for data analysis across governmental agencies increases the efficiency, reproducibility, and transparency of government work. The training was an important step in increasing the ability of state, federal, and tribal environmental professionals to quickly analyze and share data to improve understanding of environmental systems across the region.

MPCA responds to federal regulatory rollbacks

Recently, EPA has been rolling back and reducing the protectiveness of numerous environmental regulations.  The MPCA analyzes these proposed rule changes to understand how they might impact our progress towards our state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, air quality in Minnesota, the health of Minnesotans,  and the regulatory requirements on Minnesota’s businesses and governments.  In many recent cases, we have had serious concerns about the impact of these actions.  In collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Minnesota Department of Commerce, and Minnesota Department of Health, the MPCA has been providing input on these rule changes. 

Learn more about the federal regulatory rollbacks and MPCA’s response to EPA’s actions on our new webpage.

Minnesota’s power sector is changing: what does it mean for communities?

The electricity generation system in Minnesota is in the midst of a transformation, moving towards cleaner energy production and lower greenhouse gas emissions.  State renewable energy policies and goals, public utilities’ actions to replace coal-fired power plants, and market forces are leading to less pollution from the energy sector.  But what does this mean for communities?  Especially low-income communities and communities of color who are disproportionately affected by air pollution?  Are Minnesotans benefiting equitably from this transition?  Explore these questions and more with MPCA’s new Environmental justice and electricity generation in Minnesota data and map tool.

Map of Minnesota with areas of concern for environmental justice and power plants

Apply to be a GreenCorps host site

Green Corps members

The MPCA will soon be accepting applications from organizations interested in participating as a host site for the 2019-2020 year of the Minnesota GreenCorps program. Minnesota GreenCorps is an AmeriCorps program that places members with host organizations around the state to assist communities with a variety of environmental needs.

The MPCA anticipates opening the application period in February. When the application period opens, all subscribers of the GreenCorps email list will be notified and receive instructions on how to apply. Visit the Minnesota GreenCorps website to subscribe to receive emails and learn more about this program and opportunity!

Preview of the upcoming program year

The MPCA plans to place up to 42 full-time members with various host sites for the 2019-2020 program year. Members serve approximately 40 hours a week for 11 months beginning in late September 2019 through August 2020. Eligible organizations include public entities (local, regional, state, tribal), school districts, not-for-profit institutions of higher education, and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. Organizations may apply for Minnesota GreenCorps members who will serve on projects in the areas of:

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

Operation of the 2019-2020 program year is contingent on receiving funds. Confirmation of funding may not be available prior to the application deadline.

Decarbonizing transportation in the Midcontinent: new report released

A Road Map to Decarbonization in the Midcontinent: Transportation Electrification cover image

In January, the Midcontinent Transportation Electrification Collaborative (MTEC) released a report, “A Road Map to Decarbonization in the Midcontinent: Transportation Electrification.”  This report explores how electric vehicles (EVs) can both help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector and support emission reductions in the power sector.  The report finds that EVs are essential to decarbonizing the transportation sector and includes modeling analyses of future years and policy recommendations. 

The Road Map is the second in a series of reports looking at pathways to decarbonization of different economic sectors in the Midcontinent region.  MTEC is a coalition of organizations including automakers, electric utilities and cooperatives, electric vehicle charging companies, environmental groups, and state officials from the Midcontinent region, facilitated by the Great Plains Institute.  Read the report and explore the modeling here.

MPCA welcomes new Assistant Commissioner for Air and Climate Policy

Photograph of Craig McDonnell

MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop asked Craig McDonnell to join the agency as Assistant Commissioner for Air and Climate Policy. Craig has most recently been serving as Director of Government Relations at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture; he has also been a longtime adviser to Governor Walz on climate and energy policy.  Craig’s background includes a number of years as a consultant and energy policy analyst focusing on federal policy, where he advised clients on US energy policy and market trends, developed strategic outreach plans for international partnerships, and conducted extensive research on the feasibility and implications of climate change policies.


Another vehicle manufacturer settles air pollution cheating charges

Fiat Chrysler reached a settlement with the federal government over accusations that some of their SUVs and pickup trucks included software that made it appear the vehicles were complying with air emissions standards during lab testing, while actually emitting far more pollution during real-world driving conditions. Learn more here.

Minnesota high school students call for action on climate

A group of high school students met with Governor Walz, Lt. Governor Flannegan, and MPCA Commissioner Bishop to share a set of proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota.  Learn more here.

EPA proposes revised performance standards for new and modified coal power plants

On December 6, 2018, EPA proposed to change the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for greenhouse gas emissions from new, modified, and reconstructed coal-fired power plants.  NSPS are federal rules that are developed for many facility types and require new, modified, and reconstructed facilities to be constructed to use the best system to achieve emissions reductions.  The proposal identifies the best system to reduce emissions from these plants as best efficiency and operating practices.  The rule previously identified partial carbon capture as the best system of emission reduction.  The proposed NSPS would allow higher greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants than the previous version of the rule.  Comments on the proposal were supposed to be due February 19, 2019, but the comment period is expected to be extended due to the earlier federal government shutdown.  Learn more about the proposal on EPA’s website.

Subscribe to Air Mail

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 contact Amanda Jarrett Smith at