Abbott Northwestern Hospital at 800 East 28th Street in Minneapolis has an aging utility plant that it needs to update. Abbott proposes to remove heat- and power-generating units and replace them with newer equipment. This requires updating the facility’s air emissions permit. The hospital applied for the permit in February 2021 and the MPCA is drafting the update.
An air permit is a legal document that describes how a facility must operate in order to meet federal and state air quality requirements. The type and quantity of pollutants emitted determine what type of permit is needed and what regulations apply. When reviewing the application materials, the MPCA determines how each piece of equipment must operate, often setting maximum production rates, emission limits, monitoring, and record keeping requirements. The MPCA drafts an air permit detailing these requirements and a technical support document (TSD), which contains the justification for the permit requirements.
Cumulative levels and effects analysis
The law requires the MPCA to analyze and consider the cumulative effects of past and current pollution before issuing a permit for a facility in the area described by the statute.
We review most projects for environmental risks. With CLE, we take extra steps to gather additional information on other facility emissions, background air quality, demographics, traffic, and health data (asthma hospitalization, ER visits, and available cancer registry information) in the geographic area of the proposed project. This information helps determine whether emissions under the new permit will keep air quality within acceptable limits. We use the analysis as part of developing the final air permit.
As a part of this process, the MPCA will reach out to the community. We'll use information sessions, email updates, this webpage, and a formal public meeting. We'll also have an extended comment period.
Abbott needs to keep the plant operating during the upgrade, so they'll operate some older equipment alongside new for awhile. Emissions from the upgraded facility will stay within allowable limits, and the impacts will be about the same as before. The project is a major permit amendment under Minnesota’s air permitting program.
Abbott is in an area covered by a special law passed in 2008. The law requires an extra study called a cumulative levels and effects (CLE) analysis for any new air permits in the area, which includes most of the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis. Abbott did a CLE analysis the last time its permit was updated in 2013. Consultants hired by the permittee do the analysis under MPCA oversight. We review the results and consider public input on the findings.
Next steps and timeline
MPCA staff are reviewing the application materials to prepare a draft permit. The MPCA is meeting with community groups upon request so people can ask questions about the project and the process.
When the draft permit is ready, there will be a formal public comment period and public meeting. We'll review any comments received and, if necessary, make changes to the permit. We'll then decide whether to issue the permit. We'll only issue the permit if the facility will meet all applicable requirements and if the CLE analysis shows it can proceed.
- Fact sheets about this project, translated to Spanish and Somali, are available on request.
- Abbott Northwestern Hospital Campus Revitalization Program (Allina Health)