Green Business Cost Sharing Program

State: MN Type: Model Practice Year: 2016

:

The Green Business Cost Sharing Program is an innovative public/private partnership that works cooperatively with businesses to reduce air pollution. The program offers cost-share funding for dry cleaners, auto body shops and other industries emitting air pollutants when the businesses invest in equipment and technologies that significantly reduce or eliminate air pollution providing healthier places for employees and neighbors.

 

:
Minneapolis Health Department
:
Green Business Cost Sharing Program
The Minneapolis Health Department is the local public health agency for the City of Minneapolis.  The Department includes five divisions: Environmental Health (including regulatory inspections of food, lodging and pool establishments and inspections of environmental issues), Adolescent Health and Development (including school-based clinics), Policy and Community Programs (including maternal and child health and healthy living programs), Research and Evaluation, and Administration and Assurance (including emergency preparedness.)  Minneapolis is a major economic engine of the upper Midwest. Based on the Census Bureau American Community Survey 2014 estimates, Minneapolis has 407,207 residents living in the city’s 84 neighborhoods. The 2010 Census data estimates that 60.3% of residents are non-Hispanic White, 10.5% are Hispanic, 18.6% are black, and 5.6% are Asian. 2.0% are American Indian, and 4.4% are two or more races. About 15% of residents were foreign born. The City hosts the largest population of Somali residents in the country. Based on 2009-2013 ACS estimates, 22.5% of residents live in poverty, with the highest rates seen among communities of color. The city includes an estimated 178,287 housing units with a homeownership rate estimated at 49.2%. The city’s land area is 54 square miles with a density of 7,088 per square miles. Area source emissions, from businesses such as dry cleaners, auto body shops and small industrial facilities, are hazardous air pollutants that negatively impact the health of employees and residents. These pollutants, in the form of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) and fine particulates, create significant health impacts. VOCs are also a major ingredient in the formation of ground level ozone, another dangerous air pollutant. These businesses often meet all regulatory requirements but emit pollution at levels known to exceed health risk levels. Local business owners care deeply about their community and their employees  and are often unaware of the pollution their processes generate. In the absence of regulatory requirements, business owners rarely test for emissions of air pollutants.  Many business owners welcome the opportunity to learn more about their business’s emissions and environmental impact. Given Minneapolis’ demographics and historical zoning, many of these businesses operate in and adjacent to neighborhoods with high concentrations of low-income and people of color. These communities have high levels of childhood asthma and other respiratory ailments, making them highly impacted by poor air quality. The Minneapolis Health Department has developed an innovative solution to address this health concern. The Minneapolis Green Business Cost Sharing Program has three major goals. 1) Short-term goal: Offer financial incentives for businesses to reduce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) or fine particulates by investing in advanced equipment and technologies that significantly reduce or eliminate VOC and fine particulate emissions. 2) Mid-range goal: Permanently reduce employee and resident exposure from VOCs and fine particulates generated by local businesses.    3) Long-range goal: Reduce ground-level ozone so that Minneapolis does not exceed ozone and fine particulate health-risk-levels as determined by the EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.  Objective: Build on community values of work place safety, healthy neighborhoods and pristine environment to improve environmental outcomes in local businesses.  The program was implemented as a pilot program in 2012. It began with of $20,000 cost sharing funds. One staff person worked on the program in addition to their regular duties. The program grew over the next three years, adding partners and attracting funding from other organizations. The objectives of the program were met, in particular, the objective to determine if a public/private cooperative partnership could work to reduced VOC emissions was met. The Green Business Cost Sharing program is the most aggressive and  proactive business based incentive program of any major city to improve air quality. The program succeeds because it does not create more regulation. Businesses have the flexibility to find solutions that work to reduce emissions for their business. The impact of permanently reducing VOC and fine particulate emissions creates an immediate improvement in air quality for the employees, nearby residents and regional air quality.  
City of Minneapolis Environmental Health Inspectors respond to many types of environmental complaints. Inspectors were routinely coming across issues that posed a possible health risk to neighbors yet businesses were operating within their legal rights.  It was clear a different approach was necessary. While there are many sources of pollution, some businesses contribute more than others to poor air quality, both locally and regionally. Businesses generating the most complaints were dry cleaners, auto body shops and printing companies. The businesses were using legal processes, which happen to emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). The businesses practices were both legal and outside the regulatory authority of the city. As a result, Environmental Health Inspectors did not have any tools to bring about change to address the source of the complaint. Contributing to the problem is the physical layout of Minneapolis. Minneapolis has many small commercial nodes scattered throughout the city. Many small businesses operate in neighborhoods, surrounded by residential property. VOC emissions by these businesses have a strong impact, not only on employees, but also on nearby residents and other businesses. Our scientific understanding and access to information regarding pollution is increasing. Also becoming increasingly apparent is that low-income neighborhoods and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to pollution. Many businesses emitting high levels of VOCs are located in, or adjacent to, low income and communities of color. One area where we can reduce VOC emissions is at local businesses. As we have seen in a recent air quality study in Minneapolis, business processes can release VOCs in quantities far exceeding the Health Risk Values (HRV) in surrounding neighborhoods. VOC emissions reduction projects can help reduce exposure risks for VOCs for employees, nearby residents, help improve regional air quality and reduce the number of air alert days caused by ground level ozone. The idea was explored to develop a cost-sharing program working in cooperation with business owners rather than implementing more regulation. The business receiving ongoing complaints were using processes that emitted VOCs.   VOCs are a health concern because each one of these chemicals has its own health effects from exposure such as cancer, heart disease and kidney damage. Also, as a group of chemicals, they contribute to the formation of ground level ozone along with nitrogen oxides.  Ground level ozone can be harmful to respiratory function even causing permanent scaring of the lungs. People with respiratory ailments are at highest risk for negative impacts from VOCs but healthy people are also impacted by poor air quality. Low-income and communities of color have higher rates of childhood asthma and respiratory ailments. Reducing VOCs by local businesses will have a positive impact on these communities by improving air quality. The target population is employees, nearby residents, nearby businesses and people using outdoor facitilies. Workers are at high risk because they may be exposed to chemicals at levels hundreds of times over the health risk value. The same for nearby residents and businesses including vulnerable facilities such as day care centers. Additionally, other people outdoors are affected: people exercising; children in nearby parks; and people biking, for either pleasure or transportation, are impacted by poor air quality. The city estimates there are approximately 5,000 workers in the businesses and industries in Minneapolis using high VOC emitting processes. Ultimately, the target population is the City of Minneapolis and all employees and guests visiting Minneapolis from other areas. The eleven businesses switching to greener equipment and technologies have improved working conditions for approximately 10% of the employees. Many of the businesses that have made the switch have less than 10 employees. If a few large businesses make the switch, hundreds or several thousand employees will have healthier air quality in their work place. Quantifying the number of residents and visitors to Minneapolis is more difficult. In Minneapolis, low-income communities have the highest proportion of children, and have high rates of childhood asthma, a population that is strongly affected by negative air quality. In the past, the issue was approached from a regulatory perspective. Regulations that produced large reductions have been implemented (the low hanging fruit). Further regulation now has produced diminishing returns in recent years. Additionally, Minneapolis does not have regulatory authority over these business practices. Implementing more regulation would require changes to state laws and rules. The Green Business Cost Sharing program is the most aggressive proactive business based incentive program of any major city to improve air quality. The program innovative because it focuses on working cooperatively with businesses instead of trying to achieve an outcome through more regulation. The program is a unique public/private partnership offering cost sharing to dry cleaners, auto body shops and  other industry that use processes which emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) or other particulate matter. The Cost Sharing awards are used to invest in new equipment and technologies that significantly reduce or eliminate VOCs or other particulate matter. For every two dollars invested by the business, the City of Minneapolis provides one dollar. Grants are awarded up to $20,000 to auto body shops, $30,000 to dry cleaners, and up to $45,000 to other businesses with innovative ideas to improve air quality by reducing VOC emissions, particulate matter emissions, or other harmful Hazardous Air Pollutants. Working together all parties benefit. The City benefits from a cleaner environment and businesses benefit with capital investments being more cost effective. Employees and residents benefit from improved air quality. The program is informed through an extensive air-sampling program led by the City to study 67 different VOCs at the neighborhood level.  Results from the sampling study guide outreach to local businesses and provides community and business transparency of the program’s ability to reduce harmful air pollution. Local business owners care deeply about their community and their employees and welcome the opportunity to learn more about their business’s emissions and environmental impact. The business owners had never tested for VOC emissions. The VOC emitting processes they used are legal and not subject to regulatory monitoring. This program assists owners to go above and beyond regulatory requirements, deepening their pride in connection to their community.
The Green Business Cost Sharing program has multiple goals. The short-term goal is to offer a financial incentive for businesses emitting Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) or other particulate matter to invest in greener equipment and technologies that significantly reduce or eliminate VOC emissions. The 2015 goal was to reduce emissions by 10,000 pounds. The mid-range goal is to permanently reduce or remove VOCs emissions to a level below Health Risk Values for each chemical to improve air quality for employees and nearby residents. The long-range goal is to continue to reduce ground level ozone and continue to work with partners in the Clean Air Minnesota work group to ensure the region does not exceed Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee to the EPA air quality standard. Steps to develop the program were: 1) Define the need; 2) Assessed possible solutions; 3) Talked with partner jurisdictions, agencies and non-profits; 4) Selected the idea of a cost sharing program to pilot; 5) Designed the pilot program; 6) Implemented the pilot program on a small scale with partner organizations; 7) Analyzed the pilot program; 8) Expanded the program; 9) Continue to develop partners and the sustainability of the program; 10) Monitor the program and projects on an ongoing basis.  City staff identified that a program was needed to motivate business owners to voluntarily make capital improvements to reduce their emission of VOCs and other air pollutants. Taking a leadership role, city staff brainstormed ideas for possible solutions with other partners. The idea of a cost-sharing program to make capital investments in greener equipment and technologies more cost effective for businesses rose to the top. City staff reached out to partner organizations and found there was broad consensus to establish a pilot cost-sharing program to assist business owners. When city staff met with the University of Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MNTAP), city staff heard about their experience working with business owners on ways to reduce emissions and save money. MNTAP reported business owners were easily convinced to make low cost changes that yielded relatively large energy savings (the low hanging fruit). However, many businesses were interested in making changes to cleaner business practices to reduce their emissions but could not because of financial constraints. Owners needed financial incentives because of the initial investment and longer break-even time. City staff developed the Green Business Cost Sharing pilot program, which began in 2012 with an initial budget of $20,000 and one business participating. From 2013 to 2015, the program expanded both financially and with the number of businesses participating.   In 2015, an additional funding partner came on board. The target population is employees, nearby residents, nearby businesses and people using outdoor facilities. Workers are at high risk because they may be exposed to chemicals at levels hundreds of times over the health risk value. The same for nearby residents and businesses including facilities with vulnerable populations such as day care centers. Additionally, other people outdoors are affected: people exercising; children in nearby parks; and people biking, either for pleasure or for transportation, are impacted by poor air quality. The city estimates there are approximately 5,000 workers in the businesses and industries in Minneapolis using high VOC emitting processes. Ultimately, the target population is the City of Minneapolis and all employees and guests visiting Minneapolis from other areas. The eleven businesses switching to greener equipment and technologies have improved working conditions for approximately 10% of the employees. Many of the businesses that have made the switch have less than 10 employees. Quantifying the number of residents and visitors to Minneapolis is more difficult. In Minneapolis, low-income communities have the highest proportion of children, and have high rates of childhood asthma, a population that is strongly affected by negative air quality. In the past, the issue was approached from a regulatory perspective. Regulations that produced large reductions have been implemented (the low hanging fruit). Further regulation now has produced diminishing returns in recent years. Additionally, Minneapolis does not have regulatory authority over these business practices. Implementing more regulation would require changes to state laws and rules. Businesses generating the most complaints were dry cleaners, auto body shops and printing companies. The businesses were using processes, which happen to emit VOCs that were both legal and outside the regulatory authority of the city. As a result, Environmental Health Inspectors did not have any tools to bring about change to address the source of the complaint. Contributing to the problem is the physical layout of Minneapolis. Minneapolis has many small commercial nodes scattered throughout the city. Many small businesses operate in neighborhoods, surrounded by residential property. VOC emissions by these businesses has a strong impact not only on employees, but on nearby residents and other businesses. Our scientific understanding and access to information regarding pollution is increasing. It is becoming increasingly apparent low-income neighborhoods and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to pollution. Many businesses emitting high levels of VOCs are located in or adjacent to low income and communities of color. One area where we can reduce VOC emissions is at local businesses. As we have seen in a recent air quality study in Minneapolis, business processes can release VOCs in quantities far exceeding the Health Risk Values (HRV) in surrounding neighborhoods. VOC emissions reduction projects can help reduce exposure risks to VOCs for employees and nearby residents help improve regional air quality and reduce the number of air alert days caused by ground level ozone. VOCs are a health concern because each one of these chemicals has its own health effects from exposure such as cancer, heart disease and kidney damage. Also, as a group of chemicals, they contribute to the formation of ground level ozone along with nitrogen oxides.  Ground level ozone can be harmful to respiratory function even causing permanent scaring of the lungs. People with respiratory ailments are at highest risk for negative impacts from VOCs but healthy people are also impacted by poor air quality. Low-income and communities of color have higher rates of childhood asthma and respiratory ailments. Reducing VOCs by local businesses will have a positive impact on these communities by improving air quality. The Green Business Cost Sharing Program is the most aggressive and proactive business-based incentive program in any major city to improve air quality. The program is innovative because it focuses on working cooperatively with businesses instead of trying to achieve an outcome through more regulation. The program is a unique public/private partnership offering cost share funding to dry cleaners, auto body shops and other industry using processes that emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) or other particulate matter. The Cost Sharing awards are used to invest in new equipment and technologies that significantly reduce or eliminate VOCs or other particulate matter. For every two dollars invested by the business, the City of Minneapolis provides one dollar. Grants are awarded up to $20,000 to auto body shops, up to $30,000 to dry cleaners, up to $45,000 to other businesses with innovative ideas to improve air quality by reducing VOC emissions, particulate matter emissions, or other harmful Hazardous Air Pollutants. Working together all parties benefit. The City benefits from a cleaner environment and businesses benefit with capital investments being more cost effective. Employees and residents benefit from improved air quality. The program is informed through an extensive air-sampling program led by the City to study 67 different VOCs at the neighborhood level.  Results from the sampling study guide outreach to local businesses and provides community and business transparency of the program’s ability to reduce harmful air pollution. Local business owners care deeply about their community and their employees and welcome the opportunity to learn more about their business’s emissions and environmental impact. The business owners had never tested for VOC emissions. The VOC emitting processes they used are legal and not subject to regulatory monitoring. This program assists owners to go above and beyond regulatory requirements, deepening their pride in connection to their community. The program developed an innovative outreach strategy. The initial outreach targeted to dry cleaning, auto body shops and printing businesses depended heavily on mailings. The mailings produced no applications to the program. City staff approached Environmental Initiative (EI), a non-profit, and the MNTAP. The work of both organizations is in line with the goals of the Green Business Cost Sharing Program. EI is a non-profit organization that works to address environmental challenges collaboratively. MNTAP is an outreach and assistance program that helps Minnesota businesses develop and implement industry-tailored solutions that prevent pollution at the source, maximize efficient use of resources, and reduce energy use and costs to improve public health and the environment. Both organizations agreed to partner with the city on this program. After EI began conducting outreach, the city began receiving applications. Another service EI provided was to help business owners fill out the application. Many small business owners are busy running their business and do not have time to gather the information needed for the application. MNTAP calculated and provided business owners estimates and analysis of emission reductions that would be realized by switching to greener equipment. An expert panel was created to review applications and decide which applications would receive Cost Sharing awards. The organizations on the expert panel are: the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, the American Lung Association, Center for Earth Energy and Democracy, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the Citizen’s Environmental Advisory Commission. Businesses eligible for the award are dry cleaners, auto body shops, printing companies or other businesses or industry using processes that emit VOCs or other particulate matter. The Green Business Cost Sharing program operates within the city’s budget year, which is the calendar year. Annually, the application deadline is mid-April with award winners announced in early May.  Award recipients have six months to complete their project. After receiving confirmation the work was completed, the city sends the award checks before the end of the year. The broad base of program partners from academia, non-profits, and the business community contributes to the success of the Green Business cost-sharing program. In addition to our main partners, EI and MNTAP, the MPCA assisted in starting the program Several organizations are part of the decision making process. An expert panel was established to review applications and select award winners. The expert panel is made up of representatives from the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, the American Lung Association, Center for Earth Energy and Democracy, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the Citizen’s Environmental Advisory Commission. In the four years of the program, only one application was rejected due to the project resulting in only a minimal reduction of emissions. That is a testament to the outreach work of EI and the follow up work by city staff. Proposed projects are well thought out with emissions reduction potential calculated by MNTAP before businesses submit their application. City staff leads the program and coordinates roles between stakeholders to keep all stakeholders informed on the status of potential program applicants, the status of projects in progress and on completed projects. City staff realizes that the value of face-to-face outreach and follow up cannot be underestimated. Every effort is made to meet with, and be responsive to, businesses in the community interested in the program. In 2012, the City of Minneapolis funded the pilot program with a budget of $20,000.The budget was drawn from Pollution Control Annual Billing fees paid by businesses. One city staff person worked on the outreach to businesses. New staff was not hired. Existing staff perform the administrative support required for this program. The administrative support needs for this program were minimal. In 2012, one business participated in the pilot program. In 2013, the program budget was increased to $40,000. Also in 2013, a new position was created, the Environmental Initiatives Manger, to manage this and other programs. One-third of the FTE for  that position is dedicated to this program. Three businesses participated. In 2014, the program budget increased to $70,000. Three more business participated. In 2015, the budget grew to $200,000. The budget breaks down to $100,000 from the City of Minneapolis; $50,000 donation from EI; and $50,000 in-kind donations from EI and the University of MNTAP. Four businesses participated.
Data were collected from a variety of sources including monitoring, emissions and permit data from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Hazardous Waste Generator records from Hennepin County.  The Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MNTAP) reviewed equipment and chemical specifications as well as conducted interviews with business representatives.  Anecdotal information from neighborhood groups, business associations and others was also collected.    Specific air quality data were collected by the Minneapolis Air Quality Study.  Using EPAs TO-15 method, this study sampled 67 VOCs at over 120 sites throughout Minneapolis over a two-year period.  The eleven businesses that have received Green Business Cost Sharing awards have resulted in a permanent reduction of VOC emissions of over 30,000 pounds annually. This reduction results in an immediate improvement in air quality for employees, nearby residents and adjacent businesses. From 2012 through 2014, the program has resulted in a permanent reduction of 5,300 pounds of airborne VOCs in Minneapolis. In 2015, the program goal was an additional reduction of 10,000 pounds of emissions. The 2015 results are on track to achieve additional emissions reduction of 26,000 pounds of airborne VOCs. In 2015, the Green Business cost sharing program cut 3% of Minneapolis overall industrial emissions. That is the equivalent of removing the 8th largest emitter of air pollution in Minneapolis. Perchloroethylene (PERC) is the hazardous air pollutant of concern in drycleaners.  The Minnesota Department of Health has set the Health Risk Value for PERC at 20 ug/m3 or less.  Indoor PERC monitoring at a shopping center in Minneapolis was conducted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.  Approximately 30, 24-hour samples were taken using summa canisters and the EPA’s TO-15 method.   The Agency found levels of PERC at 87,000 ug/m3 within a dry cleaner and at levels of 474 ug/m3 at an adjacent Somali daycare, exposing children as young as six months old to the chemical. The owner of the dry cleaner received a Green Business Cost Sharing award and installed new equipment. Follow up monitoring found levels of PERC within the dry cleaner had dropped to 2 ug/m3 and were undetectable at the day care.  Emission reductions are calculated by taking the sum of the original emission amount and subtracting the emission amount after the new greener equipment and technologies were installed. The programmatic results are the sum of the emission reductions for each individual project. City staff works with University of Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MNTAP) to analyze emission reductions. MNTAP gathers data on emissions by business, based on chemicals and processes being used before and after new equipment and technologies are installed. City staff analyzes the results comparing them to health risk values. There are several modifications we have made to the program from year to year based on feedback from partners, industry association representatives, and businesses. Initially, the program was focused only on outreach with dry cleaners. After seeing some of the changes resulting from auto body shops switching to water borne paint systems, especially the quality of the product, more intensive promotion of the program was targeted to auto body shops. This expansion of focus to additional business sectors has increased the number of businesses participating in the program and consequently increased the levels of pollution reduction.  Outreach was initially performed through mailings, e-mail, press release and social media.  As these methods showed poor results, face-to-face meetings with business owners were piloted.  All of the businesses enrolled in the program to date are a result of this direct outreach.  The success of this method led to the City’s major nonprofit partner, EI, to hire a full time outreach person to meet directly with businesses. As the program was developed and piloted it focused solely on small businesses with a relatively small environmental footprint.  Unexpectedly, recent outreach conducted with larger businesses and industrial facilities has resulted in the expansion of the program to these sectors with significantly greater environmental impact. 
A big lesson learned was not to underestimate the importance of in person outreach. Even though this program offers thousands of dollars, which does not have to be paid back, to businesses a mailing to business owners did not result in any applications. The number of applications received is directly related to the amount of time doing outreach. Sometimes business owners are more open to conversations with a non-profit representative. Having non-government partners: non-profits, academia and the Chamber of Commerce, involved is positive for the program. All businesses that participate in the program must agree to maintain and utilize the equipment purchased and installed and additionally, must supply emissions and chemical usage data as requested. Minneapolis Health Department has developed a close relationship with elected officials to ensure understanding of air pollution and the importance of addressing health equity issues. City of Minneapolis elected officials have indicated clear ongoing support for this program. Minneapolis Health Department has formed strong partnerships with businesses, other local units of governments, state agencies and non-profits to support, sustain and expand the program. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has launched a statewide initiative modeled after Minneapolis’ and the City of St. Paul is exploring a similar program. EI has secured additional funding from third parties to support the program. By developing strong partnerships, the department is demonstrating the values of collaborative work and innovative solutions rather than increasing regulation to meet higher environmental health standards. 
I am a previous Model Practices applicant|Colleague in my LHD|E-Mail from NACCHO
 
Processing...


Driving Walking/Biking Public Transit  Get Directions