$1.35 M to Improve Mass. Air Quality with Clean Diesel

Significant funding is being delivered to several Massachusetts projects that will help improve air quality in the Commonwealth, according to a Feb. 26 press release.

In a ceremony at the Massachusetts Port Authority's (Massport) Boston Fish Pier, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced more than $1.35 million in funding to help reduce pollution from diesel vehicles and equipment operating in New England. The grants are being issued to three Massachusetts-based organizations, and were made available by EPA through the 2008 Northeast Diesel Collaborative (NEDC) Emissions Reduction Grant Program.

The funding is going to:

• Massport ($400,000) to install dockside power stations at the Boston Fish Pier;

• Environmental Defense Fund ($400,000) to introduce hybrid trucks to New England fleets; and

• Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) ($535,250) to retrofit regional locomotives.

"Reducing diesel emissions is an effective way to improve air quality and help people who suffer from asthma and other respiratory problems," said Ira Leighton, acting regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "These projects will help bring cleaner air to Massachusetts citizens."

Diesel engines contribute significantly to air pollution, especially in urban areas. The fine particles in diesel exhaust pose serious health risks, including aggravating heart or lung disease. People with existing heart or lung disease, such as asthma, older adults, and children are most sensitive to the health effects of fine particles. The Northeast has some of the highest asthma rates in the nation, including a childhood asthma rate above 10 percent in all six New England states. Lifetime asthma rates in children in Massachusetts are estimated at 14.6 percent.

"The MassCleanDiesel program aims to reduce the adverse health effects of diesel pollution on our residents. Emissions from thousands of school and transit buses, and off-road construction vehicles are now being cleaned up," said Laurie Burt, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). "The EPA grants will add to the Commonwealth's efforts to retrofit locomotive diesel engines and support clean hybrid technologies for diesel trucks."

At the Boston Fish Pier, "shore power" allows vessels to "plug in" to an electrical power source instead of using diesel generators while at the berth. Currently, shore power is available to only four vessels when docked at the Fish Pier. More than a dozen vessels regularly dock there, and need to run their diesel generators many hours per day to supply power for off-loading, maintenance and essential on-board systems. The project is expected to reduce diesel generator "idling" by 95 percent.

EDF will use its funds to establish the Northeast Hybrid Truck Consortium, which will work with communities and organizations in all six New England states to replace at least 12 pre-2007 heavy-duty diesel vehicles with hybrid versions. EPA funds will pay for up to 25 percent of the cost of the new vehicle.

The NESCAUM, in partnership with the Providence & Worcester P&W Railroad, will install auxiliary power units on 17 locomotives built between 1969 and 1988. Installation of these units will reduce unnecessary idling, which will lessen the amount of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides released into the air. Reducing fuel consumption will also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 1,700 tons per year. In addition, the railroad will continue to fuel its locomotives with ultra low sulfur diesel fuel ahead of the 2012 mandate.

"The Providence and Worcester Railroad is a significant regional freight rail line with operations in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York. As such, a diesel emissions reduction project involving P&W has long been a top priority for the Northeast Diesel Collaborative," said Paul Miller, deputy director of NESCAUM.

The recent passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) makes available an additional $300 million nationwide under the Diesel Emissions Reduction Program for grants and loans to help regional, state and local governments, tribal agencies, and non-profit organizations with projects that reduce diesel emissions and create jobs. A Request for Applications will be issued in the coming weeks. ARRA gives preference to projects that can be started and completed expeditiously. Prospective grant applicants can begin preparations now for the upcoming competitions.