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Sunday, March 6, 2016

MPCA offers small-business grants to cut air emissions

Have you thought about improving the air at your business, but the price tag holds you back? If your business can reduce the use of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), you may be eligible for a grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). 

VOCs are emitted from industrial and commercial processes used in many businesses. The familiar smells from coatings, inks, solvents, adhesives, gasoline and other everyday products are VOCs. They can be harmful to our health, both indoors and outside. Combined with ozone, they help form smog, also a harmful air pollutant. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency just tightened the federal ozone standard last year. Levels in many areas of Minnesota may exceed the standard the next time it's revised.  This could trigger costly regulatory requirements for businesses. MPCA is offering the grants to help businesses stay within allowable limits, which will benefit all Minnesotans. 

"The challenges we face with air quality today are mainly from the smaller but numerous sources all around us," said MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine. "Voluntary actions are an important part of the solution. We're glad to be able to offer some support to help get things rolling."

Gene Ross, pressroom supervisor at Clear Lake Press in Waseca, Minn. said, "In order to make a large-scale commercial printer run, chemicals are required to clean and wash the blankets and rollers.  Most people don't realize those chemicals can be hazardous."  With the help of an MPCA grant in 2015, his company switched to water-based cleaners that reduced their VOC emissions by 92 percent. "It takes a little more muscle to get the machines clean, but the employees think it's worth it," Ross added.

The grants will pay up to $50,000 for projects to reduce use of VOC-containing chemicals or put in lower-emitting equipment. Reducing VOCs helps save businesses money on disposal and permitting fees, and can reduce some regulatory obligations. It also means less exposure and better health for employees.

Grant applicants must be small businesses with less than 100 employees and which have painting, degreasing or cleaning operations.  A variety of other projects to reduce VOCs cost-effectively may also be eligible. 

Grant applications will be accepted through May 11, 2016. Contact Eric David at eric.david@state.mn.us or 651-757-2218 with questions.  For general information, visit the MPCA's Reducing VOC Emissions webpage.


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