• July 16, 2015
  • |
  • Bill Droessler

As we complete preparations for the next phase of Clean Air Minnesota – the state’s ongoing public and private partnership on air quality, this is a good time to take stock of our recent accomplishments. At the June Clean Air Minnesota meeting, each of the project teams presented their activities and associated emissions reductions, education gains, and plans for the future.

Air Alert Education and Outreach Team

  • Launched BeAirAware website which is a resource for residents, communities, and businesses concerned about how air quality affects health.
  • Increased the number of people and organizations receiving air pollution health alerts on poor air quality days.

Gas Can Exchange Team

  • Exchanged 1,500 spill-proof gas cans in Washington and Ramsey Counties.
  • Established a successful model exchange and education program, bringing in hundreds of first-time visitors, which increases public awareness of air quality and health.

Mobile Source Team

  • Completed all eligible school bus retrofits and supported another 21 heavy-duty diesel engine improvement projects.
  • Updating plans for additional diesel fleet recruitment and collecting and analyzing fleet survey information for future emission reduction projects.

Community Forestry Team

  • Hennepin County installed a gravel-bed nursery to provide replacement trees for ones soon to be destroyed by emerald ash borer; a cost effective way for the county to replace trees on county property.
  • Successful LCCMR grant proposal to build volunteer base and maintain trees.
  • Completed health impact assessment related to community forestry issues and legislative funding proposals were introduced; all of which helps promote the many values of large-scale community forestry efforts.

Wood Smoke Team

  • Education activities to raise awareness on the health effects of woodsmoke and smarter ways to burn wood through the Minnesota State Fair Eco-Experience and American Lung Association in Minnesota’s recent public outreach efforts.
  • A Minnesota Power supported wood stove change-out project for Northeast Minnesota is in final preparation stages.

Area Source Team

  • The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and City of Minneapolis programs achieved multiple tons of emission reductions and both programs are hoping to expand in 2016. Read more »
  • Outreach, education, and funding efforts continued through Environmental Initiative and the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program.

Initial emission reduction estimates for all of these activities were compiled by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. These figures were based upon information supplied by the project teams and combined with other related efforts (tire pressure campaign, B20 biodiesel, Minnesota Green Corps energy conservation, etc.). The emission reductions and associated costs were calculated for volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, and fine particulate matter on both a 2-year and 10-year basis.

  • Volatile Organic Compounds:   2-yr:  297 tons; 10-yr: 1,500 tons
  • Nitrogen Oxides: 2-yr: 38 tons; 10-yr: 192 tons
  • Fine Particulate Matter (PM 2.5):   2-yr: 155 tons; 10-yr: 905 tons

These initial returns are cost effective compared to similar efforts around the country. With new federal air quality standards coming in October, these emission-reduction projects are a good foundation upon which to build more and larger efforts.

Bolstering the case for additional emission-reduction work, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Minnesota Department of Health just released the study, “Life and breath: How air pollution affects public health in the Twin Cities.”

According to the report, “about 6 to 13 percent of all residents who died, and about 2 to 5 percent of all residents who visited the hospital or emergency room for heart and lung problems, did so partly because of fine particles in the air or ground-level ozone.” These numbers “roughly translate to about 2,000 deaths, 400 hospitalizations, and 600 emergency room visits.”  The report also explains that typical industry “smokestack” type sources are no longer the primary source of contributions for many of our air pollution problems; and, our solutions need to reflect the new nature and reality of the dispersed pollution sources.

Taken together, these factors demonstrate that Clean Air Minnesota and all of our partners need to ramp up our efforts. No single pollution source, emission-reduction strategy, or outreach and education plan is going to achieve the emission and exposure reductions our region needs and our population deserves. We’re looking forward to reconvening Clean Air Minnesota partners later this fall, pending final contract negotiations with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

What ideas do you have to reduce emissions? Leave a comment here or contact me to learn more about Clean Air Minnesota and what’s next for our ongoing emission reduction efforts.

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