Small Business Enterprise - Winter edition

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Small Business Enterprise

News from the Small Business Environmental Assistance Program

In this issue

Finding alternatives to Trichloroethylene (TCE)

MnTAP logo

Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a hazardous solvent often used for industrial vapor degreasing, but it brings with it many health, environmental, and regulatory concerns. Many of the chemicals marketed as “easy” replacements have serious health and environmental effects of their own, and may be next in line for regulation. Don’t make the wrong switch!

The Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) is offering no cost assistance to Minnesota businesses seeking to eliminate TCE from their processes. While TCE and similar chemicals work for a wide range of cleaning applications, the safer alternatives tend to be more specific to each application. MnTAP, working with the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI), can perform solubility testing to find a safer solvent or cleaning system that meets your process needs.

The first companies participating in the project are now doing final onsite testing to validate their safer alternatives to TCE. Join the increasing number of companies that are making a positive step to eliminate this hazardous solvent from their facilities.

Recordings of the June 11, 2019 training event presented by MnTAP and the TURI are now available on the MnTAP website. The training includes information on the pros and cons of potential TCE alternatives as well as case studies for companies who have successfully eliminated TCE from their process.

If you have questions on TCE use at your facility or if you want to see if there may be safer alternatives for your current process, contact Jane Paulson (, 612-624-1826).

Start salting smart

Maintain safety, use less salt, and save money

Salt in parking lot

As the snow and ice continue, so does the consistent battle to manage it. Businesses who maintain paved surfaces can now learn the benefits of applying less salt by taking MPCA’s smart salting certification training. Participants learn how they can maintain safe winter surfaces for the public, building occupants and customers, but with less salt.

Minnesota has a growing salty water problem threatening fish and other aquatic life. Chloride from the estimated 445,000 tons of de-icing salt used statewide each winter gets into our valued water resources – affecting our groundwater supply and abundant recreational opportunities. It takes only 1 teaspoon of salt to permanently pollute 5 gallons of water. Once in the water, there is no easy way to remove the chloride.

Over-salting is having serious side effects on property infrastructure, an expensive hidden cost to over-salting. It eats away at buildings near the ground, permanently stains and crumbles sidewalks and driveways, and damages indoor walkways. The familiar springtime vegetation ‘burn’ from over-salting kills grass near sidewalks, parking lots, and roads. Previous class participants have cut their salt use by 30-70%! Imagine the benefits your organization could see from reducing salt use on your property.

Sign up for a training near you on our Smart salting calendar. The training is usually free or low-cost and lunch is included. Find someone who is already certified on the MPCA smart salting page.

Cool down your refrigeration costs

Grocery store

Depending on the industry, refrigeration can be one of the biggest drivers of energy use for small businesses. The Xcel Energy Commercial Refrigeration Efficiency program makes it easy for grocers, liquor stores, convenience stores, and restaurants to upgrade refrigeration equipment, reduce energy costs, and receive rebates. Benefits of the program include:

  • Free refrigeration assessment
  • Recommendations from technical experts
  • Rebates to offset the project cost
  • Lower energy use and costs
  • Maximized equipment operations
  • Help through the entire process

Learn more

Save more with lighting and HVAC upgrades

The One-Stop Efficiency Shop® helps small businesses save on energy costs and earn significant rebates from Xcel Energy by upgrading lighting and HVAC equipment. Program services include:

  • A free audit with cost savings recommendations
  • Rebates to help offset the project cost
  • Convenient financing options
  • Completion of all program and rebate paperwork

Learn more

Contact: Cindy Kelly at 612-455-7803 or

Eligible participants must have an active commercial account within Xcel Energy’s Minnesota service territory and a peak electric demand of 400kW or less. Center for Energy and Environment, a Minnesota nonprofit, implements the MN Commercial Refrigeration Efficiency program on behalf of Xcel Energy.

Spray painter training - time for the 5-year refresher course

Auto body painting

Painter training certification applies to any business that is subject to the federal air quality rule 6H NESHAP or is complying with the Minnesota Conditionally Exempt Source rules for auto body refinishing or coating facilities.

The 6H NESHAP regulates spray painting of coatings that contain chromium, cadmium, lead, manganese, nickel or their compounds and paint stripping that uses methylene chloride. Many shops certified that they were following the requirements of the 6H NESHAP in late 2010 or early 2011. Considering the 5-year cycle, it may be time for painters to receive refresher training over the next year or so.

Some shops filed a petition for exemption from the 6H NESHAP and don’t have to train painters. These shops need to pay special attention to the SDS for new products or check with their supplier to confirm these metals and methylene chloride haven’t crept back in.

Shops that are following the conditionally exempt source rules for auto body refinishing or coating facilities are required to have painters trained within 180 days after they are hired and every 5 years after that. Training that complies with the 6H requirements, satisfies the state rule.

Where can I find painter training?

Shops can provide refresher training themselves or have painters take a training course. Check to see if your paint or equipment vendor offers refresher training. If not, one option is the Iowa Waste Reduction Center. They provide online training at It costs about $100, takes two hours to complete and can be done on each painter’s own pace and schedule.

Painters who received 6H training less than five years ago don’t have to renew their training now. However, it may be easier to keep everyone on the same schedule and train all painters now.

For more information

If you have questions about how these rules may apply to you, contact the Small Business Environmental Assistance Program at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 800-657-3938 or 651-282-6143, Stay in touch on the MPCA Help for your small business page.

SBEAP provides free, confidential assistance to help small businesses understand environmental rules, reduce wastes and emissions and reduce regulatory obligations.

Coming soon! MPCA grants for solvent and coating emission reduction

Common finishing processes include the application of products such as primers, paints, topcoats, stains, varnishes, sealants, solvents, and component parts such as hardeners or catalysts. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from these finishing products contribute to poor air quality where we live and work. These emissions can be reduced through the use of improved finishes such as:

  • Wet-coat, low-VOC, low-HAP, high solids, and water-based products;
  • Dry, powder coating;
  • Ultraviolet (UV) or infrared (IR) cured products;
  • Liquid plastic coating products;
  • Other non-wet coat finishes; and
  • High efficiency equipment

More than $650,000 in grants have already been provided to help businesses make the switch. The new products and equipment will reduce air emissions by approximately 24 tons of VOCs within the first year of use.

Sign up to be notified when these grants open. Apply on the MPCA webpage when they do!

Zero-interest loans for small businesses

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) provides zero-interest loans to small businesses for capital equipment purchases that meet or exceed environmental regulations, and costs related to the investigation and cleanup of contaminated sites. Some eligible projects include purchasing a solvent recycler, installing a new paint booth to switch to water-borne paint, and installing updated equipment that reduces emissions from refrigerants.

Many small business loan projects lead to fewer regulatory requirements, lower waste disposal bills and less exposure to harmful chemicals for your employees, your customers and your neighbors.

Eligibility and conditions

Many business sectors are eligible. Projects that reduce regulatory obligations are highly encouraged. To quality, a borrower must be an existing small business corporation, sole proprietorship, partnership, or association with:

  • Fewer than 100 full-time employees
  • An after-tax profit of less than $500,000
  • A demonstrated ability to repay the loan

Loan terms and conditions:

  • Loan amount between $1,000 and $75,000
  • 0% interest rate
  • Repayment term up to seven years
  • Flexibility in the types of collateral accepted
  • Awarded throughout the year

Annual reminders: air emissions, compliance calendars, hazardous waste

Air emissions inventory

All facilities that held an air quality permit from the MN Pollution Control Agency need to report their annual regulated air emissions from calendar year 2019 by April 1, 2020. More information can be found on the MPCA Emissions Reporting page. Call the small business assistance helpline 651-282-6143 if you need help calculating your 2019 emissions.

Compliance calendars

These calendars help small businesses with the record-keeping needed to comply with environmental regulations, provide multimedia assistance tools, helpful hints, and contacts for additional information. Calendars are available for aggregateaboveground storage tanksdry cleaners, and hot mix asphalt. Paper copies are available upon request from the Small Business Environmental Assistance Program at 651-282-6143 or

Hazardous waste generator training: classroom and online

Dakota County released the 2020 dates for classroom hazardous waste generator training: Feb. 6; Apr. 9; Aug. 6; Nov. 5. This free training is for all hazardous waste generators, not just those in Dakota County, and provides an overview of the information the average generator needs to stay in compliance with the rules. Online registration is required.

Not able to attend? Online training is readily available from MPCA and Hennepin County.