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EPA Diesel Engine Grants Yields Major Air Quality and Public Health Benefits

BOSTON – Clean diesel grants aimed at cleaning up old diesel engines have greatly improved public health by cutting harmful pollution that causes premature deaths, asthma attacks, and missed school and workdays, according to a new report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since its start in 2008, the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) program has significantly improved air quality for communities across the country by retrofitting and replacing older diesel engines.

Diesel exhaust significantly contributes to the formation of dangerous soot and smog and is likely to increase the risk of cancer. Nationally, DERA program funding has helped clean up approximately 335,200 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 14,700 tons of particulate matter (PM), which are linked to a range of respiratory ailments and premature death. The program has also saved 450 million gallons of fuel and prevented 4.8 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions – equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions from more than 900,000 cars. EPA estimates that clean diesel funding generates up to $13 of public health benefit for every $1 spent on diesel projects.  

In New England, EPA estimates that since the beginning of the DERA program in 2008, DERA-funded projects across Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine have resulted in cumulative lifetime emissions reductions of approximately 20,000 tons of nitrogen oxides and 750 tons of particulate matter.

“Our work to clean up diesel emissions through our investments in cleaner school buses, trucks, trains, and other heavy equipment is making a visible difference by providing cleaner, healthier air in communities that need it most,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Clean air and good health go hand-in-hand. EPA is very proud that DERA projects provide New Englanders with cleaner air while also cutting the pollution that fuels climate change.”

Operating throughout our transportation infrastructure today, over 10 million older diesel engines — the nation’s “legacy fleet” — built before 2008, need to be replaced or repowered to reduce air pollutants.  While some of these will be retired over time, many will remain in use, polluting America’s air for the next 20 years. DERA grants and rebates are gradually replacing legacy engines with cleaner diesel engines. Priority is given to fleets in regions with disproportionate amounts of diesel pollution, such as those near ports and rail yards.

One recent recipient of DERA funding was the Massachusetts Port Authority, awarded $333,185 in 2015 to fund the repower of 5 rubber-tired gantry cranes used to load drayage trucks at the Conley Container Terminal in Boston. The grant will allow Massport to replace five older, Tier III diesel engines with current EPA Tier-4F certified diesel engines. Once completed, the project is expected to reduce annual emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), and carbon dioxide (CO2) by an estimated 7.62 tons, 0.06 tons and 155.4 tons, respectively. The grant will cover up to 25 percent of the labor and equipment costs of each of the new crane engines. 

Additionally, the DERA program awarded $925,000 to school systems and school bus service providers across the New England states.  These funds were used to encourage the early replacement of 46 older school buses by offering $15,000 to $25,000 towards the purchase of with newer, less polluting, buses.   

This third report to Congress presents the final results from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and covers fiscal years 2009-2011. It also estimates the impacts from grants funded in fiscal years 2011-2013.

Additional report highlights include:

Environmental Benefits

  • 18,900 tons of hydrocarbon emissions prevented
  • 4,836,100 tons of carbon dioxide emissions prevented
  • 450 million gallons of fuel saved

Public Health Benefits

  • Up to $12.6 billion in monetized health benefits
  • Up to 1,700 fewer premature deaths
  • Although not quantified in the report, NOx and PM reductions also prevent asthma attacks, sick days, and emergency room visits

Program Accomplishments

  • 642 grants funded
  • $570 million funds awarded
  • 73,000 vehicles or engines retrofitted or replaced
  • 81% of projects targeted to areas with air quality challenges
  • 3:1 leveraging of funds from non-federal sources

More information:

– Search DERA projects by state https://www.epa.gov/cleandiesel/clean-diesel-national-grants#dera2

– National Clean Diesel program http://www.epa.gov/cleandiesel.

– Read the “Report to Congress: Highlights from the Diesel Emission Reduction Program Report” http://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-03/documents/420r16004.pdf

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