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Convening & Collaborating in Grand Rapids

September 5th, 2017

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: An environmentalist, a diesel vendor, and a public health worker are sitting around a table in Grand Rapids…

Despite being tantalizing close to another “Sven and Ole” knee-slapper, these were just a few of the participants that gathered on Tuesday, August 15 at our most recent event: the Clean Air Collaborative.

As many of you may know, our Clean Air program has been experiencing exponential growth in partners and projects that reduce air pollution emissions and invest in Minnesota’s economy. As bigger and better opportunities lie ahead, this was the perfect time to reconnect with partners and stakeholders in Greater Minnesota. As our last Northern Minnesota convening event was a Clean Air Minnesota meeting in Duluth in June of 2014, we were overdue for a visit!

Our goal was to reintroduce ourselves to the region and, most importantly, learn about Northern Minnesota’s priorities from Northern Minnesotans. With Blandin Foundation generously hosting and resources provided by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Flint Hills Resources, the event was a huge success. Representatives from private, public, tribal government and non-profit sectors were all in attendance having meaningful conversation.

Event Snapshot: Outcomes & Attendees

The event began with presentations of Clean Air Minnesota programs, projects and partners, but the real pay dirt came from the facilitated breakouts sessions that followed. Participants explored:

  • Cost-effective ways to use Volkswagen settlement dollars to better Minnesota’s environment, economy and public health
  • A possible logging truck project through Project Green Fleet’s clean diesel work
  • Actions to assist low-income residents in Northern Minnesota and on tribal lands access Project Stove Swap benefits
  • How to engage other professional associations and community organizations in air quality, energy, and other environmental work
  • Partnership opportunities that advance voluntary emission reductions and investment in Northern Minnesota

When the Itasca County Public Health Department is having lively discussions with the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association, you know you’re doing something right. Other organizations, agencies, businesses, and governments in attendance included:

  • American Lung Association
  • CAT Ziegler, Inc.
  • Fireplace Lifestyles, Inc.
  • Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
  • Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board
  • Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
  • Minnesota Logger Education Program
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
  • Minnesota Power, an ALLETE Company
  • Northern Minnesota Builders Association
  • Nuss Trucking and Equipment
  • Red Lake Band of Chippewa
  • St. Louis County
  • And many more

As always, the hours fly by with such fantastic people and before we knew it, we were on our way. Though our time was short, it was extremely productive and just the beginning of our push to continue our work for the benefit of Minnesota’s environment and its people. If you’re interested in what we talked about, presentations or the agenda, all materials are posted on our website »

As the great Herb Brooks once said, “Great moments are born from great opportunities.” Here at Environmental Initiative, we look forward to making many great moments to come.

Bjorn Olson

POSTED BY:

Senior Environmental Project Associate

Mike Robertson: Critical Collaborator Award Recipient

April 4th, 2017

The Critical Collaborator award recognizes an individual over the age of 50 who has utilized partnership and collaboration to achieve positive and lasting environmental outcomes.

Mike Robertson has been part of nearly every major environmental policy decision in Minnesota for the last 30 years. Though he’s retired now from his time as an Environmental Lobbyist and Attorney for various public and private sector clients, he’s one of the founding members and minds behind Clean Air Minnesota and the Clean Water Legacy Act. You can read more about his professional career on our recipients page

Join us in honoring Mike at the 25th Anniversary Environmental Initiative Awards on May 25, 2017. Purchase your seats or tables here » 

We have two Critical Collaborator recipients this year, and I got to sit down with them both and talk about their career, passions, and get their advice for those currently working on environmental issues.

SITTING DOWN WITH MIKE ROBERTSON

What excites you about the environmental community, sector, or movement in Minnesota?

I think it’s the tradition that we started to build through Environmental Initiative of collaboration. It’s really the vehicle to make things happen, and that is what excited me about working with Environmental Initiative and being a leader in that group.

There are always going to be specific issues where there is conflict on the environment—an example would be the future of mining in Minnesota. For the most part, though, I think collaboration is possible and successful if the various groups are working together and the work that we’ve done at Environmental Initiative has given me confidence that, going forward, this tradition that we’ve built can work for the future.

You’re one of the founding members of Clean Air Minnesota—as well as one of the minds that shaped the effort. What made you go to bat for this group?

Clean Air Minnesota was really important because in the evaluation of the state’s air quality problems, the data showed that 75% of air pollution was coming from non-point sources. In other words, all the industries had permits for their point-source air issues, and followed those for the most part, and still we were concerned about meeting the ozone standard and other air quality standards.

Part of the federal law is that if the state is not in compliance, then it’s the point source permit holders (the industries) who may be penalized for that. Because pollution was coming from smaller non-smoke stack pollution, there’s no way that Minnesota could maintain or improve air quality without having a collaborative process. Local governments, business, and the environmental community needed to try to take some voluntary actions to maintain the status of our air quality.

Partnership and consensus isn’t always easy. What was your most difficult collaborative endeavor (or problem)?

One was very successful, and the other was much less so.

The most successful was the Clean Water Legacy Project where we formed a group which worked on creating a framework for addressing the state’s water quality issues, and then finding a source of funding. It took several years to figure this out, with all these interests, and they are still working together on it. It was a very successful process, and the legislature agreed with the legislation and eventually found a method to fund and provide resources to the state agencies and local governments. It’s an effort that will go on for many, many years and I think it’s a tremendous success.

The one that was more difficult was the Environmental Initiative stakeholder process on chemical regulation. The federal government, under the Toxic Substances Control Act, regulates hazardous substances. That law needed work for a long time, and Congress was not able to do it, and there were efforts for the state regulation of chemicals—so we brought the stakeholders together.

It was a very interesting process, but there was not significant consensus that came out of it. One thing that did occur after the fact was that Congress eventually did pass amendments to the Toxic Substance Control Act which are now being implemented and hopefully the situation will improve.

As you look at these issues over time, one factor of success is getting the timing right. At the time in which we were working on the chemical issue, the timing wasn’t exactly right. With air and water quality, everybody moved together.

What advice would you give those currently working in the environmental sector?

My advice would be that environmental professionals and volunteers need to get to know each other. Everybody kind of works in a different environment, representing different interests. One of the things that I’ve discovered over the years is that people need to get together and get to know each other and get to know the issues that are of concern to them. Even though you may not be working at the top level of policymaking, even if you’re an engineer working on a permit, or you’re a volunteer working in your community—all the folks affecting the issue need to get together and talk. It doesn’t need to be done regarding a specific issue, and just the professional relationships that can develop and can be helpful later when folks are in a situation of conflict.

Your favorite Environmental Initiative memory… (serious, funny, impactful… your choice!)

The memory that I have is being a member of Environmental Initiative’s board of directors back in 2003. We brought this question of creating a collaborative process on water quality (The Clean Water Legacy Project) to the board, and there was a lot of concern about that at the time. Environmental Initiative had been focusing on a lot on dialogue and bringing people together to talk about the issues, and now we were talking about something very different, which was actually trying to find solutions in an elaborate process. It hadn’t been tried before at the organization.

I remember the board meeting where that decision was made. The board eventually came around and made the decision that, ‘Yes, we need to go forward.’ I think that changed Environmental Initiative from that day forward. We worked on The Clean Water Legacy Project for three or four years, it was successful, and it developed the organization’s experience in how to collaborate. It was the genesis of the collaborative effort in Minnesota, and it worked. The air quality process (Clean Air Minnesota) went from there, the solid waste collaboration, the chemical dialogue—so there are huge successes that came out of that first collaborative endeavor in 2003.


A note from Environmental Initiative
In honor of our 25th Anniversary, we’re taking the time to acknowledge those who’ve been essential and influential in Minnesota’s environmental community. In addition to celebrating outstanding projects, we’re also recognizing the leaders that have helped us get to this point, and those that will continue to improve our community.

Damian Goebel

POSTED BY:

Communications Director

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency 2017 Report: The Air We Breathe

January 12th, 2017

Last week, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) released its biennial air quality report, The air we breathe: The state of Minnesota’s air quality 2017. It’s a great place to learn about all things air quality in the state.

The good news is that our air is pretty clean—better than most of the rest of the country. Minnesota has seen huge improvements in air quality since the start of the Clean Air Act, all while our economy has continued to grow.

Despite these major improvements, poor air quality continues to affect people here in Minnesota. Sometimes that can be easy to forget when we compare our typically blue skies to images of Beijing and other big cities.  Scientists are constantly learning that air pollution is harmful at lower and lower levels, even at levels below national standards. Young children, the elderly, and people with lung conditions, such as asthma, are particularly susceptible to the effects of air pollution, but dirty air can affect us all. Lower-income communities and communities of color are also both disproportionately exposed to air pollution and more vulnerable to its adverse health effects.

Today, most of Minnesota’s air pollution comes from smaller, widespread sources in our neighborhoods. Only about a quarter of the air pollution in Minnesota comes from “smokestack” facilities such as power plants and factories. The remaining 75% comes from a wide variety of things we see in our daily lives: our vehicles, local businesses, heating and cooling technologies, and yard and recreational equipment.

 

Many of the successes we’ve achieved since the start of the Clean Air Act have come through regulating large facilities. Now, an important part of the MPCA’s work is with partners in the non-profit, business, and governmental sectors, including our work with Clean Air Minnesota. With our partners, we are able to develop innovative, often voluntary programs to help Minnesotans reduce their contributions to air pollution.

The MPCA strives to ensure our state’s air is healthy for all to breathe, even for the most vulnerable Minnesotans.  We’ve made important progress, but there is still much for us all to do. I highly encourage everyone to check out BeAirAwareMN.org to learn how you can both reduce your emissions and your exposure to air pollution. Our future success will depend on each and every one of us making choices to help limit emissions.

I hope you all will take a little time to explore some of the report highlights, or even dive into the report itself and learn all about the air we breathe!

Amanda Jarrett Smith

POSTED BY:

Air Policy Planner, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Introducing Project Stove Swap

November 3rd, 2016

Since Clean Air Minnesota’s inception, members of the partnership have been thinking about and working on many strategies to improve Minnesota’s air quality. While wood smoke had been identified as a major source of pollutants, a significant funding source has not been available to start a project until this year with Minnesota Power. After consulting with air experts, securing funding, setting concrete goals, and hiring staff (me!), we’re excited to introduce Project Stove Swap.

PSS-HEADER-shortIn short, Project Stove Swap is a voluntary wood stove change-out program. The project provides financial incentives to residents and organizations to replace old appliances with new, more efficient, less-polluting technologies. Currently, Project Stove Swap is working in 17 Northeastern Minnesota counties. We’re excited to be expanding the scope of our clean air work (And I’m excited to be visiting 17 Northeastern Minnesota counties on a regular basis!) 

How Project Stove Swap Works

Residents and organizations that use older, non-EPA certified wood heaters as a primary or major heat source are eligible for a financial incentive to change out their appliance.

To start, participants can contact one of our pre-qualified vendors, to verify their eligibility, select a new appliance, and fill out an application. If approved, vendors will provide the Project Stove Swap incentive as a straight discount off of the total cost at the time of payment. Learn more about the application and change-out process »

Why Wood Smoke?

While the smell of wood smoke on a crisp November day may seem cozy and nostalgic, wood smoke is composed of gases, chemicals, and fine particles that can lead to a variety of serious health issues. The finest particles are so small that they can be absorbed by your lungs and enter your bloodstream, causing cardiac and respiratory complications. Learn more about your health and wood smoke »

While Minnesota is fortunate to have generally good air quality, negative health effects of air pollution are being observed at ever lower concentrations. Because of this, federal air quality standards are predicted to become stricter over time, putting Minnesota at risk of violating these standards.

Swapping out just one older wood stove for a new, more efficient model is the pollution reduction equivalent of removing over 700 cars from the road per year. In other words, it’s a cost effective way to proactively and voluntarily reduce air pollution, improve health outcomes, and avoid costly federal regulations. In addition, many of the heating appliances are made in Minnesota and all of the vendors are Minnesota-based so every dollar Project Stove Swap spends is pumped into the local economy.

We’re just getting Started

Project Stove Swap is just one of several efforts underway to help achieve Clean Air Minnesota’s goal of reducing man-made sources of fine particulate matter (soot) and ground level ozone precursor emissions (smog) by 10%.

Though we’re thrilled our clean air work is growing, we’re never really satisfied. While our efforts in Northeastern Minnesota will continue for at least the next year, we’re keeping our eyes peeled for ways to improve and expand the project.

Getting Involved

Want to get involved? Contact me at 612-334-3388 ext. 8109 to learn more about replacing your wood burning appliance, becoming a participating a vendor, or educating your community about wood smoke. Visit our frequently asked questions page for additional information.

Mikey Weitekamp

POSTED BY:

Senior Project Manager, Environmental Initiative

In the Air: October News

October 31st, 2016

Welcome to a new blog series!

Every month, we’ll be keeping you up to date with the latest in air quality news. Think of this as your one-stop shop for air news, with special focus on the environmental, economic, and health effects of air pollution exposure.

In this month’s issue, learn about local air quality heroes, how clean air legislation affects the way we see the world, and how science is advancing around air pollution and health.

Air Quality and the Environment


Alternate Reality: U.S. Cities without The Clean Air Act

In a weird, alternate reality, you can see two versions of major U.S. skylines: one with The Clean Air Act, and one without. The results? The Statue of Liberty would be “submerged in a sea of smog” without the legislation. See the eerie photos for yourself »


Mathiowetz Construction Invests in Cleaner Air

A construction company in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota took the steps to invest in clean air with Project Green Fleet. Pollution reductions from their diesel equipment upgrades are equal to removing 2,200 cars from the road each year in Minnesota. Read about their accomplishments »

 

Air Quality and the Economy


Judge Approves VW’s $14.7 Billion Settlement Over Emissions Scandal

Earlier this month, a federal judge approved the “largest civil settlement in automaker history” with Volkswagen in regard to their vehicle emissions. The process of compensating U.S. car-owners is beginning now. NPR covers this historic settlement »


Clean Car Standards Continue to Save Americans Money, Reduce Air Pollution

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, consumers will save an estimated 1.7 trillion dollars in gas money over the life of the current federal Clean Car Standards. In doing so, we’ll eliminate 6 billion metric tons of air pollution. Read more about how consumers benefit from the Clean Car Standards »

 

Air Quality and Health


In New Ozone Alert, A Warning of Harm to Plants and to People

Midwest scientists continue to discover the negative effects air pollution can have on the environment and our bodies. As the world warms, ground-level ozone is causing plants to “turn brown and sickly,” and is having negative health outcomes in people as well. Ozone is both a naturally occurring and human-created gas, but on the ground level, it can be highly toxic. Learn more »


Air Pollution a Risk Factor for Diabetes, Say Researchers

A new study suggests air pollution exposure in a place of residence can increase the risk of developing insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic state. As science advances, we discover more about how air pollution affects us, and federal air regulations can become more stringent as a result. Read the study »

Bill Droessler

POSTED BY:

Senior Director of Strategic Project Planning

Three Minnesota Construction Companies Enroll in Project Green Fleet

September 13th, 2016

What do Anoka, Albertville, and Sleepy Eye all have in common? They’ll all be breathing easier for years to come, thanks to three construction companies and their commitment to clean air.

Erin Contracting, Mathiowetz Construction, and Northdale Construction all partnered with Project Green Fleet in order to ensure residents in their communities benefit from clean air. These three companies are now operating either upgraded or replaced diesel machines, meaning each is more fuel efficient and releasing less pollutants into the air.Frontloader

Project Green Fleet is a voluntary statewide effort run by Environmental Initiative to reduce diesel pollution. We raise money to help businesses, like construction companies, upgrade engines and equipment to reduce air emissions. Participating fleets also help share in the cost of each project.

Mathiowetz Construction is operating a newer, cleaner bulldozer as a result of the partnership. Replacing the engine in this one piece of equipment is the equivalent of removing 2,200 cars from the road every year. Similar results exist with Erin Contracting and Northdale Construction, both of which upgraded their diesel loaders. Repowering both loaders is the equivalent of removing nearly 800 cars each from the road annually.

“We’ve worked hard to establish company protocols to minimize impacts on the environment,” said Brian Mathiowetz, CEO of Mathiowetz Construction. “Participating in Project Green Fleet helps us save money, upgrade equipment earlier than we otherwise would, and do our part to keep Minnesota’s air clean. We’re proud to be a part of this effort.”

WHY?

Diesel engines are very important to our economy—they move our goods and provide valuable services. However, many diesel engines can have striking health costs associated with air pollution. Vulnerable populations, like children, the elderly, and those with heart and lung conditions are especially susceptible to health hazards. Air pollution is associated with asthma and a number of cardiovascular problems.

Upgrading diesel fleets helps reduce these effects. Combined with the high costs of replacing them, the longevity of diesel engines mean that many older and less efficient models are still in operation today. Upgrades still require a significant investment by the fleet, but Project Green Fleet helps make it easier for companies to decrease their impact.

Minnesota’s air quality is generally good, but we can always be doing more. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is always releasing more stringent emission requirements as we learn more about the health effects of poor air quality.

In partnership with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Environmental Initiative has retrofitted 3,200 buses and 1,400 heavy-duty diesel engines in Minnesota through Project Green Fleet. To learn more about being part of Project Green Fleet or how it works, visit our information page. »

We’re always excited to partner with local companies to improve air quality across the state. Their commitment to clean air means we all have a little more room to breathe.

Bjorn Olson

POSTED BY:

Senior Environmental Project Associate

Project Green Fleet Removes 17,000 Cars from the Road

June 7th, 2016

A little less than two years ago, Environmental Initiative announced completing all eligible school bus retrofits in Minnesota; an effort that in partnership with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reduced emissions equivalent to removing 750,000 cars from the road each year. At that time, we daringly declared our intention to match school bus emission reductions by retrofitting 100 heavy-duty, off-road pieces of diesel equipment. As we approach the 2-year anniversary of this new phase of Project Green Fleet, I thought it would be an appropriate time to report and reflect on our efforts.

For those unfamiliar, retrofitting a school bus means installing a DOC and/or a FOH. Say, what? DOC stands for Diesel Oxidation Catalyst. Essentially, it’s like the catalytic converter on your car, but bigger. FOH stands for Fuel Operated Heater. When buses need to warm up in winter or during school trips, they idle the engine to provide heat. An FOH is a small heater that heats the engine and the bus while reducing fuel use by 90%. As retrofits go, DOCs and FOHs are easy: quick to install, cheap, and compatible with most buses. Plus, Environmental Initiative and our partners paid for 100% of the retrofit costs. Tough to turn down, amirite?

From Buses to Big (Really Big) Diesel Vehicles

Heavy-duty, off-road retrofits are a “horsepower” of a different color. Basically, there are three options: you can upgrade an engine, replace an engine, or replace the whole piece of equipment. These retrofits result in massive emission reductions, but they also cost much more. While Project Green Fleet offers a match incentive, fleets often invest tens of thousands of dollars of their own resources for a heavy-duty retrofit. These bigger jobs also require more “down-time” to install along with specialized and technical expertise, which can complicate work schedules.frontloader, construction vehicle

However, despite these challenges and an audacious goal before us, the response has been incredible. Since completing the school buses in 2014, Environmental Initiative has eliminated diesel emissions equivalent to removing 17,000 cars from the road each year through heavy-duty reduction projects. We’ve also got potential projects in the works that would amount to an additional 28,000 car-equivalent removal by the end of 2016. New projects range from Sleepy Eye to Duluth, with a heavy concentration of work slated to happen in the 7-county metro area. In fact, demand for diesel emission reduction projects has been so great we’ve already committed all of our available resources for 2016. (We’re currently busy raising more funds).

Our partners at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) have received similar response to funding for clean diesel projects through their Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) program. The MPCA program covers 40% of diesel upgrade costs and funding is expected to increase to $400,000 for next year. Learn more »

So, where do we go from here?

In the words of Big Tom Callahan, “…you’re either growing or you’re dying.” Three things will determine the future success of Project Green Fleet: fleet participation, increased awareness of air pollution and the need for emission reductions, and funding.

We’ve got a lot of work to do. Here are three ways you can help:

  • Know a company or fleet manager who may be interested in upgrading their older diesel equipment? Contact me for program information to pass along.
  • Raise awareness about air quality. We’re looking for guest bloggers, story ideas, social media sharing, and more to support a coordinated campaign to raise awareness about air quality in Minnesota. If you’re interested in communicating about air quality, contact Emily Franklin in our office to plug in.
  • Donate. Between June 8 and July 1, any contribution made to Environmental Initiative will be matched dollar for dollar. Donations from individuals like you help make work like Project Green Fleet, and our other collaborative projects, possible. Donate here »

 

Bjorn Olson

POSTED BY:

Senior Environmental Project Associate

Flint Hills Resources: Member of the Month

June 3rd, 2016

The Flint Hills Resources Pine Bend refinery, located in Rosemount, produces transportation fuels used throughout the Midwest, including most of Minnesota’s gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel, as well as other products such as propane and asphalt. Pine Bend is among the cleanest, most efficient oil refineries in the country. It has reduced total onsite emissions in 11 of the last 15 years, and its emissions per barrel are approximately 19% lower than other U.S. refineries.

Flint Hills Resources and its employees partner with a variety of local organizations where they contribute their expertise, time and resources to benefit the community. Environmental Initiative one of those organizations.

Flint Hills Resources is a founding sponsor and ongoing supporter of Project Green Fleet, a collaborative effort with Environmental Initiative to install pollution control equipment in thousands of Minnesota school buses, heavy-duty trucks, and other diesel vehicles. In 2014, Flint Hills provided a $1 million donation which allowed us to complete Project Green Fleet’s school bus retrofit program (3,000+ buses) and expand the program to other diesel-powered equipment.

Now we are retrofitting construction equipment and even tugboats! Becky Sue, a riverboat used on the Mississippi River, received upgrades to its 600-horsepower engines which push barges in Saint Paul’s harbor. This effort reduced emissions equivalent to removing 12,000 cars from the road each year. Exciting milestones have happened and continue to happen with this award-winning voluntary program.

Flint Hills is also an Environmental Initiative award winner for its work to restore 1,650 acres of natural prairie and oak savanna known as the Pine Bend Bluffs Natural Area along the Mississippi River. This area provides critical habitat for both resident and migratory animals and is a migration corridor for millions of songbirds and 40% of North America’s waterfowl and shorebirds. In addition, Flint Hills’ 30-year collaboration with Ducks Unlimited has resulted in 36,000 acres of restored wild rice lake habitat, 144,235 acres of wetland protection and restoration, 54,097 acres of grasslands protection, and five miles of sensitive shoreline protection.

Together, Environmental Initiative and Flint Hills have made meaningful contributions in Minnesota. To learn more about the Flint Hills Resources Pine Bend refinery, visit PineBendRefinery.com.

Sacha Seymour-Anderson

POSTED BY:

Development Director

MPCA Offers Grants to Small Businesses to Reduce Emissions

March 23rd, 2016

Are you a small business with less than 100 employees?

Are you interested in reducing the use of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs)?

Have you thought about improving air quality at your business, but the price tag holds you back?

Well, if you answered yes to these questions you may be eligible for a grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Grant applications are being accepted through May 11, 2016 and will pay up to $50,000 for projects to reduce use of VOC-containing chemicals, or to put in lower-emitting equipment.

WHY REDUCE EMISSIONS?

Auto body shops and manufacturers converting to powder coating are two examples of businesses that have taken advantage of this program, but VOCs are emitted from many industrial and commercial processes. The familiar smells from coatings, inks, solvents, gasoline and other everyday products are VOCs and they can be harmful to our health.

Reducing VOCs helps save businesses money on disposal and permitting fees and means less exposure and better health for employees. But, don’t take my word for it – you can hear directly from a small business owner who participated in this program by watching this short video:

HOW TO APPLY FOR GRANTS

In the meantime, grant applications are due on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Contact me at eric.david@state.mn.us or 651-757-2218 with questions or to learn more or visit the website at www.pca.state.mn.us/voc.

Also don’t forget that the City of Minneapolis Green Business Cost Share program is accepting applications now until April 22. Eligible businesses include dry cleaners interested in switching from a harmful chemical called Perchloroethylene (Perc) to alternative solvents, auto body shops who want to use water-based paint, or a variety of other innovative ways to reduce air pollution.

You can find more information by contacting Patrick Hanlon at Patrick.Hanlon@minneapolismn.gov or 612-673-2319 or visiting http://www.minneapolismn.gov/environment/green/index.htm.

Eric David

POSTED BY:

Program Manager, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

The Life and Breath Report: 3 Things I Learned

March 9th, 2016

When I was considering making the switch from my previous work on environmental communications, waste and recycling to Clean Air Minnesota’s focus on air quality, my biggest motivator was air quality’s substantial and direct impact on the health of our communities. Air quality shapes our health and quality of life with every breath we take.

The recently released Life and Breath: How air pollution affects public health in the Twin Cities, puts an exclamation point on that statement by quantifying the real impact of air quality on human health in the Twin Cities.air and health report cover

What Surprised Me

While I’ve experienced the burning lungs and watery eyes that accompany a poor air quality day, the scale of the impact is literally breathtaking. Life and Breath estimates that air pollution was a significant contributor to roughly 2,000 deaths, 400 hospitalizations and 600 emergency room visits every year. These impacts fall disproportionately on the sick, the elderly, children with asthma, and disadvantaged communities that tend to be predisposed to respiratory and cardiac illness. Here are a couple of comparisons to put that in perspective:

  • If it were classified as its own category, poor air quality would be the sixth leading contributor to premature death, behind unintentional injury and ahead of Alzheimers disease.
  • In a single year, poor air quality contributes to more early deaths in the Twin Cities than car accidents caused over the last five years statewide.

The good news is that the problem is recognized and quantified, and Clean Air Minnesota partners spanning industry, government, and nonprofits have spent the last 15 years implementing innovative, voluntary emissions reduction projects to keep our state’s air worth breathing.

What we’re doing

As the convener of Clean Air Minnesota, Environmental Initiative has been fostering a dialogue and implementing projects to measurably improve air quality on the ground. From reducing diesel emissions through Project Green Fleet to business emission reduction projects and an upcoming wood stove changeout program, Environmental Initiative and Clean Air Minnesota’s partners continue to work hard every day to reduce emissions and improve quality of life in Minnesota.

What you can do

Want to join us in improving our state’s air quality? Consider a few of the easy actions below:

Be Air Aware: Be informed about our air quality. Download the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Minnesota Air app or sign up for air quality alert e-mails.

Take Action: There are many things we can do in our daily lives to reduce our air pollution impacts. Take one small action to help air quality every week.

Spread the Word: Tell your family, friends, and colleagues about what air quality means to you and what you are doing to help. Encourage your workplace to become an Air Aware Employer to multiply your impact.

While the impacts of air pollution on human health are significant, Environmental Initiative and our Clean Air Minnesota partners are taking a uniquely Minnesotan approach to considerably improve our air quality. With your help, there is a bright future for our state’s air.

Mikey Weitekamp

POSTED BY:

Senior Project Manager, Environmental Initiative

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