Air Mail newsletter November 2020

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Online public meeting to discuss proposed Water Gremlin permit amendment December 10

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will host an online public meeting to discuss a draft minor amendment to Water Gremlin’s air permit on Thursday, December 10, 2020 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. Due to the pandemic, the meeting will be in a virtual format.

Water Gremlin is not expanding its operations and the permit amendment concerns only one coater at the facility. The public comment period will end on December 17, 2020. The public notice, draft minor permit amendment, and technical support document are available on the MPCA’s website for Water Gremlin information. A draft comprehensive air permit for Water Gremlin is expected to be available in early 2021.

The online public meeting will start with a short presentation about the draft permit amendment followed by Q&A. Links to the meeting are posted on MPCA’s website for Water Gremlin information. You can sign up for email updates about the Water Gremlin site on the same website.

For more information about this public meeting and proposed minor permit amendment please contact Sarah Sevcik at 651-757-2715 or If you have other questions about Water Gremlin, please contact MPCA at 651-757-2998 or

2021 air emission fees – early estimate

Facilities with air quality permits are billed annually based on the total amount of nitrogen oxides (NOX), lead (Pb), particulate matter less than 10 microns (PM10), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) they emit into the atmosphere. The early estimated air fee for 2021 is $145 per ton of billable emissions.

The federal Clean Air Act requires states to collect air emission fees to fund their activities. In Minnesota, the air fee is determined by dividing the amount of money appropriated by the Legislature for the MPCA air program by the total billable emissions in the most recent finalized emissions inventory. The MPCA has estimated the 2021 air fee based on the 2019 emissions inventory. The increase in the 2021 air fee is primarily due to the decrease of billable facility emissions by 14 percent in 2019, mostly from NOX and SO2 reductions, and an appropriation increase of about 6 percent.

The estimated 2021 air fee is draft and subject to change. Invoices based on the 2019 air emissions will be mailed in the spring of 2021. See the MPCA Emission Inventory Fees webpage for more information.

Reminder: New wood stoves must follow 2020 standards

New wood stoves burn a lot cleaner than in the old days. Buying, selling, or installing a new one? Make sure it's certified to 2020 emission standards. Look for the EPA-certified hang tag. More details on the MPCA’s cleaner burning appliances webpage.

Paul Bunyon and Babe upgrade their wood stove

Housekeeping amendments to air quality rules

The MPCA is starting work on rulemaking for air quality “housekeeping” amendments to the air quality rules. State agencies use housekeeping rulemaking to update rules, make minor corrections and clarifications, and repeal rules that have become obsolete.

This rule will clarify air quality protection program terms and definitions, incorporate by reference the federal performance standards to retire waste combustor emission limit variances, and include new requirements for modeling information from Option C, D, and capped air permit holders. The rulemaking will also include provisions to implement the 2020 Legislature’s ban on the use of trichloroethylene (TCE).

For more information about this rule, visit the MPCA air quality housekeeping rule webpage and the MPCA rule docket. If you want to stay updated on the progress of this rulemaking project, an email subscription list has been established – sign up on the housekeeping rule webpage linked above or the MPCA's GovDelivery portal

Regulatory flexibility

Map of Minnesota regulatory flexibility requests

The MPCA expects regulated parties to remain in compliance with permit and regulatory requirements that directly protect human health and the environment, even during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The agency developed a regulatory flexibility process for those regulated parties that may have faced an unavoidable noncompliance situation since the start of the pandemic and Governor Walz’s declaration of a peacetime emergency in Minnesota.

To preserve public trust in the process, the details of the requests and the MPCA’s final decisions are available to the public through an online dashboard. Watch this video to learn more:  MPCA’s approach to flexibility.

MPCA air modeling manual and seminar

The MPCA has updated its Air Quality Dispersion Modeling Practices Manual based on user feedback and experiences. The manual can be downloaded from the MPCA’s air quality dispersion modeling web page. Among the updates are a requirement for modelers to include emissions from paved roads in the list of volume sources – see Section 3.6.2 of the updated manual for details.

If you have questions or comments about the manual, please feel free to contact the MPCA’s air modelers at

Save the date:  The MPCA will host its annual Air Modeling Seminar in January 2021. Additional details on the 2021 seminar are under development. If you would like to present an air quality modeling topic at the seminar, please contact Nick Witcraft at


Updates from Minnesota’s Climate Change Subcabinet

To fight climate change and help Minnesota’s communities prepare, Governor Walz has tasked a group of state leaders — the Climate Change Subcabinet — with identifying and advancing innovative climate policy solutions in our state and engaging with Minnesotans about these important issues. This fall, the Climate Change Subcabinet has been busy initiating new conversations with state partners and members of the public.

In September, the subcabinet participated in a government-to-government forum to facilitate early and meaningful engagement with elected leaders from tribal nations in Minnesota. Going forward, the subcabinet and tribal leaders have agreed to meet quarterly to continue building relationships and foster a shared understanding of our climate challenges. Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan also announced 15 appointees to the Governor’s Advisory Council on Climate Change.

In October, the subcabinet and members of the Environmental Quality Board held a special joint meeting online that was open to the public and provided a kickoff to the Our Minnesota Climate forum series. The November forum was a virtual roundtable on expanding green jobs in Minnesota. Find session details and more opportunities to help make a difference on the subcabinet’s Get involved website.

Take a survey and share your climate priorities

From warmer winters to increasing extreme precipitation, Minnesota’s climate is rapidly changing and creating new challenges for local communities. In order to discover the best ideas and build a groundswell of support for climate action, Governor Walz’s Climate Change Subcabinet and its working teams need Minnesotans from all parts of the state to join our efforts. Are you ready to step up and take action? Which climate issues affect you the most? Share your priorities and tell us how you’d like to get involved by taking a survey.

Explore the rest of the new Our Minnesota Climate website for more information on how climate change is affecting Minnesotans today, the bold initiatives and policies state agencies are leading, and examples of businesses and communities taking climate action.

Focus on metal fabrication at MnTAP

Industrial wheel turning

This fall the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) is launching a pollution prevention (P2) effort to create meaningful technical assistance resources tailored for the metal fabrication industry.

The goals of the project are to listen to the concerns of the metal fabrication sector through a series of informational interviews with practitioners and vendors, collaborate with stakeholders to determine the best P2 and operational efficiency options, share new and established standards for best practices to improve industry performance, and conduct onsite technical assistance to identify site specific opportunities for improvement.

Fabricated metal processes generate waste streams such as oily wastes from machining operations, heavy metal-bearing wastes from surface treatment and plating operations, hazardous and regulated solvents, alkaline and acid solutions from metal cleaning, and chloride discharges from softened water. Material substitution, energy efficiency, and water conservation opportunities may be available to help businesses improve their overall sustainability and reduce operating costs.

If your company is interested in participating in this project, contact Michelle Gage at or 612-624-4619.

Funding for this project comes from the MPCA’s pollution prevention grant through the U.S. EPA.

MnDOT offers new clean transportation funding

A new clean transportation pilot from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) will provide up to $2 million annually in grants to pilot, test, and increase adoption of clean transportation technologies.

This new program will help communities across the state demonstrate how clean transportation technologies can meet their business needs and reduce carbon pollution, especially in communities outside of the Twin Cities metro area.

Grant amounts will range from $25,000 to $500,000 and require a 20% match. No match is required for tribal governments. More information, including a comprehensive guide to the pilot program, is available on the MnDOT website: Clean Transportation Pilot Program.

MPCA receives overwhelming interest in electric school buses

Link to electric school bus video

Applications for the MPCA's electric school bus pilot project closed in mid-October, and the initial numbers are in:  We received about 20 applications, with requests for more than 40 buses! As the application evaluation process begins, we are excited to see that schools and bus companies operating across Minnesota are demonstrating great demand for electric vehicle (EV) technology.

Kids are excited, too. Watch this video to see why.

Using funds from the Volkswagen settlement to advance EV technology is an important step MPCA is taking to fight climate change and ensure clean air for our children and local communities. Applications received will be evaluated for eligibility, and not all applicants may be deemed eligible. We anticipate funding between six and 10 buses total, with buses expected on the roads in fall 2022.

More information:  Electric school bus technology is expanding in Minnesota; MPCA’s Volkswagen settlement program

Grants available for emission reductions from refrigerants

The MPCA is offering grants for projects that will reduce emissions from refrigerants used in cold-transport vehicles and in grocery stores, convenience stores, and food storage facilities in Minnesota. The grants target greenhouse gas refrigerants that contribute to climate change.

Ozone-damaging refrigerants such as chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons, which were once common, have been replaced by high global warming potential (HGWP) refrigerants that, while sparing the ozone layer, have greater capacity to warm the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. The MPCA is encouraging the use of alternative refrigerants and practices that reduce refrigerant use.

To be eligible for the grants, projects must reduce or prevent refrigerant emissions that contribute to climate change. This could include replacing or retrofitting equipment to enable use of alternatives to HGWP refrigerants, switching to less harmful refrigerants, or installing leak monitoring devices on refrigeration equipment. The maximum award is $40,000, and the grant recipient must provide at least 25% of the total project cost.

Eligible applicants include:

  • For-profit businesses
  • Governmental entities
  • Educational institutions
  • Nonprofit organizations.

Application deadline is December 11, 2020. To learn more about this grant opportunity and download the application forms, visit the MPCA refrigerant grant web page. Email with questions.

New MPCA grants support convenient EV charging with clean energy

Woman using Level 2 EV charging station

The MPCA announced $170,000 in grants available to help install up to 22 additional dual-port electric vehicle (EV) Level 2 charging stations in public places and workplace locations. This grant round includes a new incentive for EV charging station owners to use clean, renewable energy sources rather than fossil-fueled electricity. Applications are due by February 8, 2021.

MPCA staff will host an online training about this RFP on Wednesday, November 18, 2020 from 1 - 2 p.m. Visit the grant webpage for full details and application materials for EV Level 2 charging station grants.

MPCA needs your help reviewing our data tools

Findings from a recent MPCA website survey showed that about 15% of respondents want more real-time, searchable, and interactive data from the agency. This echoes requests we’ve received in the past from communities, advisory groups, and other agency partners.

As part of our efforts to make data more available and accessible, we would like some volunteers to help the MPCA user-test our air data tools. The format of this user testing is yet to be determined, but it will be done online and will likely include a few different ways to review our tools, such as a virtual focus group, informal quiz, or a “choose your own adventure”-style exploration of the MPCA’s data tools.

If you are interested in helping out with future data tool testing, please email, and they will add you to a list for potential participation, starting in 2021.

In the meantime, check out some of our newer data tools on our air data tools website, our environmental justice story map, and the “What’s in my neighborhood?” tool.


National air pollution study finds persistent disparities

The most and least polluted areas of the United States in 1981 remain the most and least polluted areas today, according to a study published in Science magazine in July. Researchers at the University of Virginia found these disparities persisted even though overall fine particle pollution has declined and the difference between the most and least polluted areas is generally less now than in 1981.

You can read a summary of the study and explore an interactive map of fine particle changes between 1981 and 2016 on the PBS NewsHour website.

Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards

On August 14th, EPA published a proposal to retain the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground-level ozone without revision.

The EPA Administrator made the decision to retain the existing standards based on his interpretation of the information found in EPA staff’s policy assessment, commentary from the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, and outcomes of legal challenges to the 2015 ozone NAAQS.

The MPCA reviewed the proposed rule and provided comment to EPA regarding the haste with which the review was conducted and the lack of consideration of environmental justice and impacts to at-risk populations. MPCA requested that EPA revisit the decision. MPCA’s full comments are available on the federal rulemaking docket website. EPA is planning to finalize the current ozone NAAQS review process by December 2020.

To learn more about ground-level ozone and its health effects, visit the MPCA’s ozone web page.

How clean is your electricity?

CO2 emission rates from electricity generation

EPA has redone the eGRID tool, which provides data on the environmental characteristics of the U.S. power system. The eGRID can be used to inform greenhouse gas registries and inventories, carbon footprints, consumer information disclosures, emission inventories and standards, power market changes, and avoided-emission estimates. Individuals can use it to better understand the environmental impacts of their own electricity usage. 

The redesign offers new interactive graphs and maps plus updated background data, including emissions data that utilities report to EPA and generation data they report to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA). Among the interactive graphs and maps is the new Data Explorer. The example above shows state CO2 emission rates (lb/MWh) in 2018. While Minnesota has achieved a CO2 emissions rate that is lower than its Clean Power Plan goal, it also shows that the Upper Midwest has a ways to go in decarbonizing our electricity generation.

Subscribe to Air Mail

Air Mail is a quarterly email 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 Aneka Swanson at