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A Tale of Two Years: inside Clean Air Minnesota

October 13th, 2017

The Clean Air Minnesota partnership wrapped up another successful two years—and what an eventful two years it’s been! This dynamic group of over 25 business, government, and nonprofit organizations— co-chaired by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy— has been pushing the envelope on air quality improvement across the state. As the partnership prepares to reconvene in the fall, it is an exciting time to look back and see all that was accomplished over the last two years.

A Focus on Opportunity

Clean Air Minnesota’s work from 2015-2017 focused on the disbursed, everyday sources that make up over ¾ of Minnesota’s air pollution pie (worst pie ever!) These pollutants, which come from sources like wood smoke, small businesses, cars, trucks, and off-road equipment, are addressed by the engines of the partnership, the Mobile Source, Area Source, and Wood Smoke Project Teams. The Clean Air Minnesota Work Group and Core Team provided resources, knowledge, and support to the project teams, all driving towards Clean Air Minnesota’s goal of reducing air pollution 10% from 2011 levels.

Thanks a Million!

Between expansions in existing projects and the launch of new projects, Clean Air Minnesota’s impact is growing on multiple fronts. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s diesel grants have expanded, Environmental Initiative launched the largest wood-burning appliance change-out program in Minnesota, the City of Minneapolis has expanded its nationally award-winning green business cost-share program, and a number of other partners are advancing direct emission-reduction projects. And these expansions show up in the numbers.

In fact, combining the work of all of the partners, Clean Air Minnesota has directly reduced particulate matter equivalent to taking over a million cars off the road every year.

New Projects on the Horizon

This phase of Clean Air Minnesota also saw the launch of a number of new and innovative projects working to reduce emissions in new sectors, from new sources, in new ways. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has launched a pilot project replacing parts washers at auto repair shops, proving incredibly cost-effective reductions of Volatile Organic Compounds, a key component of smog.

With support from Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Flint Hills Resources, Environmental Initiative also launched a pilot project repairing emission control systems on cars owned by folks with lower incomes. This project goes beyond the emissions to addressing economic security by helping to ensure that folks have safe, reliable transportation to get to work.

With the launch of Project Stove Swap, Clean Air Minnesota’s emissions reduction impacts are spreading into a new sector and bringing in some great new friends in the north. Every new project area is an exciting opportunity for new partners to work together on new sources of air pollution. Conversations with these partners that started in Clean Air Minnesota were the catalyst for the recent, successful Clean Air Collaborative event in Grand Rapids.

Let’s Talk About It

Clean Air Minnesota’s communications capacity expanded greatly from 2015-2017. From the development of a Clean Air Minnesota brand to the mapping of member impacts, Clean Air Minnesota partners got the word out about their good work. Running the numbers, Clean Air Minnesota communications efforts led to over 500,000 in-person impressions, over 20,000 online impressions, and at least 14 earned media stories about the various projects. Telling the stories of the good work of the partnership helps to bring in new partners while raising awareness of Minnesota’s air quality issues.

What’s Ahead?

As the leaves start to change and the cool breezes blow out of the north, Clean Air Minnesota will be coming back together to continue and expand its important work. The next phase will continue the momentum while bringing in partners in new geographic areas and working to increase a focus on health equity in our work.

Interested in joining the partnership? Sign up for our e-mails and contact me at mweitekamp@en-in.org.

Mikey Weitekamp

POSTED BY:

Senior Project Manager, Environmental Initiative

Introducing the High-Emitting Vehicles Pilot Project

March 22nd, 2017

Our work and reach is always expanding here at Environmental Initiative! We’re excited to announce a new project that will be addressing Minnesota’s air quality by fixing pollution controls on high-emitting passenger vehicles for folks with lower incomes.

What are High-Emitting Vehicles?

Photo credit: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

It can kind of be a mouthful to say, but high-emitting vehicles are passenger cars and light-duty trucks that emit high levels of pollution into the air. These cars typically have outdated or broken emission controls or exhaust equipment that would typically be identified in vehicle emissions testing programs run in areas that have violated federal air quality standards. This new pilot project aims to repair some of those broken technologies, improving fuel efficiency and reducing air pollution all at the same time.

How does the project work?

Environmental Initiative is partnering with two nonprofit garages that provide low-cost safety and reliability repairs to help improve their clients’ economic security. While funding is available, Cars for Neighbors and The Lift Garage will offer no-cost repairs to three priority emission control systems on the cars of clients that qualify for their services: catalytic converters, evaporative emission control (EVAP) systems, and oxygen sensors. You can read more about these technologies here »

 

 

This is a pilot project, so we’ll be working on a small scale for right now. In this phase, our goal is to repair roughly 40 vehicles identified by our partners. We have high hopes, though! If the pilot is successful, we’ll be raising funds and expand our reach.

The high-emitting vehicles pilot project is 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%.

Clean Air Minnesota is a diverse coalition of air quality leaders convened by Environmental Initiative who are working voluntarily and proactively to reduce air pollution.

Why is this project important?

Minnesota is fortunate enough to have pretty good air quality. However, as the science around air quality advances, health impacts from air pollution are being found at ever lower concentrations. One recent study from the University of Toronto found that 25% of the worst-polluting passenger vehicles may emit up to 90% of vehicle-related air pollution (The Air We Breathe Report 2017). Focusing on vehicles that produce higher levels of pollution is one efficient and cost effective method of addressing air quality concerns in our state.

The great part about this project is that its impacts go far beyond the environmental factors. According to a report published by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Health, lower-income residents of color, children with asthma, and the elderly are often most affected by dirty air. Disadvantaged communities feel the health effects of pollution more acutely, often in the form of respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. The Lift Garage and Cars for Neighbors serve these communities that often cannot afford repairs to emission control systems. Every repair that this project makes reduces pollution in close proximity to those most vulnerable to it while furthering our partners’ missions of promoting economic stability through reliable transport.

Overall, the high-emitting vehicles pilot project is a big opportunity to reduce air pollution where it is most felt. At the same time, we can also address sources that produce large amounts of dirty air. It’s a win-win!

We’re really excited to be launching a pilot version of this project and are looking forward to expanding. If you have questions, want to learn more, or are interested in contributing, you can contact me at mweitekamp@en-in.org.

Mikey Weitekamp

POSTED BY:

Senior Project Manager, Environmental Initiative

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