States Get Stimulus Dollars to Cut Diesel Emissions
By Kelley Arnold, CSG Membership Outreach
State efforts to clean up the air are getting some help from federal stimulus funds.
In late March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that nearly $300 million would be made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to reduce diesel emissions. Each state and Washington, D.C., will receive $1.73 million from the EPA. Another $208 million is available through competitive grants.
Recovery Act funds will be used to “implement clean diesel projects that would cut thousands of tons of diesel emissions, including particulate matter and nitrogen oxides. As a result, the projects would also reduce premature deaths, asthma and other respiratory ailments, lost work days and many other health impacts every year,” the EPA said in a March 20 press release.
Dawn Fenton, director of policy for the Diesel Technology Forum, said the Recovery Act funds are “a great step for all states, even if they don't have counties in nonattainment for particulate matter or ozone.”
The hope of many state and federal environmental officials is that the stimulus money will help those states that may not yet have comprehensive emission plans begin to develop state level programs, such as converting state fleet vehicles and other public transportation engines. Aside from cleaner air, the EPA hopes the funds will also help cut vehicle operating costs and create more green jobs as states move to new technologies that burn fuel more efficiently.
More importantly, however, Fenton points out “the (Diesel Emission Reduction Act) program expires in 2010. Hopefully the ARRA funds will help raise awareness and spark a greater interest and concern in extending the program.”
The Diesel Emission Reduction Act, was created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The EPA’s National Clean Diesel Campaign provides grants to eligible organizations to create clean diesel programs that reduce diesel emissions, improving air quality and protecting public health, according to the EPA.
The funding, however, was only established for five years, and the last awards will be given in the 2010 fiscal year, Fenton said. After 2010, both stimulus dollars and the Diesel Emission Reduction Act funding will end under the current systems.
“So much more needs to be done.” said Fenton, “While the stimulus money will certainly help, states will still need help covering the costs of the clean diesel programs they are currently developing.”
Many states already have developed clean diesel programs with the Diesel Emission Reduction Act funding. For these states, the Recovery Act money provides an influx of cash for established programs.
Washington is one example. Gov. Christine Gregoire said in an April 10 press release the Recovery Act funds will allow the state to continue to make progress in its clean air efforts.
“More than 4 million people in Washington live or work close to highways or other major roads, where they are likely to be exposed to diesel exhaust,” Gregoire said in the release. “Funding under the Recovery Act will greatly benefit Washington’s environment and people.”
Washington Department of Ecology Director Jay Manning added, “This money will help us build on the progress we’ve made in controlling diesel pollution from publicly owned vehicles, including thousands of school buses throughout the state. That work has helped protect the health of tens of thousands of children who are exposed to emissions from school buses.”
Washington will use the money to retrofit many of the state’s school buses with devices that help filter dangerous pollutants, including carbon monoxide, from the air. Several other states—including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Nevada and Ohio—will also use the money for clean school bus programs.
While future funding still remains unclear, a quick survey of state recovery sites shows Washington is not the only state that already has plans for the $1.73 million in Recovery Act dollars coming their way.
Here’s what some of the state recovery sites are reporting:
Ohio is making part of the Recovery Act funds available in the form of grants to school districts through its existing Ohio Clean Diesel School Bus Fund, according to the Ohio Office of Environmental Education. These grants will allow for school buses to be retrofitted with equipment that reduces pollution and allows for cleaner fuel use.
In North Carolina, a portion of the money will be used to start a rebate program for auxiliary power units or heavy duty engine replacements for long haul trucks. Some of the money will also be used to augment the new N.C. Diesel Emissions-Economic Recovery Grants. The program will solicit and select worthy “shovel ready” projects to reduce mobile emissions from diesel engines.
Tennessee’s Department of Environment and Conservation plans to use Recovery Act funds for its Clean Diesel Grant program, which helps trucking companies purchase clean diesel technology for their vehicles, according to the department Web site. “This will help reduce truckers’ fuel costs and achieve emissions reductions,” the department said on its Web site.
For more information on how individual states are using Recovery Act clean emission dollars, visit the EPA’s Web site. The deadline for applying for national competitive EPA grants for clean emissions is April 28.