Start Your Engines, New Funding Available in Texas for Newer, Cleaner Vehicles

Delivery trucks, wheel-loaders, school buses, and locomotives all have one thing in common – an internal combustion engine that keeps these machines churning for years. Maybe for too many years. The useful life for some of these engines, especially diesel engines, can last decades, deterring owners from upgrading to newer models with greater fuel economy and operational efficiency. Plus, these machines can be very expensive, making it difficult for owners to replace older equipment once the newest, cleanest technology becomes available. From an environmental perspective, this is bad news. Engines emit a variety of dangerous pollutants that adversely affect our health, including particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). So without the means to upgrade polluting, heavy-duty engines, what can owners do?

Enter the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP).

First, EPA established more protective emissions standards that require new engines to be many times cleaner compared to older models. These strong standards have helped drive innovations in engine technology so that emissions are now a fraction of what they once were. Here’s a breakdown:

Improvements in Engine Emissions for the Cleanest Available Engines Compared to Older Models

Examples*

Amount of PM Reduced

Amount of NOx Reduced

Delivery truck

98%

98%

Wheel-loader

96%

97%

School bus

98%

98%

Locomotive (line-haul)

95%

90%

*These estimates use the current, cleanest standards for engines (including Tier 4 for locomotive engines that will take effect in 2015) and compare emissions from the oldest engines based on TERP guidelines for NOx. For PM estimates, values from the engine regulations (locomotive, on-road) and from the EPA guidance for non-road engine modeling (>300 hp) were used.

Second, TERP has stepped in to provide vehicle owners with the necessary funds to upgrade their engines and help improve air quality throughout the state. TERP is paying owners of heavy-duty engines and equipment to replace old machines with clean models earlier than they might have planned, effectively increasing business’ bottom line while also helping improve the quality of the air that Texans breathe. To date, the program has provided nearly $1 billion in grants for over 15,000 emission reduction projects.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) administers several TERP programs that target different types of equipment or vehicles. Currently, the following opportunities are available for organizations and individuals interested in taking advantage of the funding:

  • Texas Clean Fleet Program: due on October 3, 2014, these grants fund projects that replace diesel vehicles with alternative-fueled or hybrid vehicles. Applicants must have a large fleet (at least 75 vehicles) operating in Texas, and at least 20 must be diesel-powered and selected for replacement. $7.7 million is available.
  • Emissions Reduction Incentive Grants: due on December 2, 2014, these grants fund the replacement or repower of a variety of activities, including medium- and heavy-duty trucks, non-road equipment, marine engines (repower only), stationary engines, and locomotives (repower only). For on-road and non-road projects, the program can pay up to $15,000 per ton of NOx reduced, and projects must demonstrate at least a 25 percent improvement in NOx emissions (for most project types). Approximately $50 million is available.
  • Light-Duty Motor Vehicle Incentive Program: a recent addition to TERP, these grants provide incentives for the purchase of up to $2,500 to buy or lease an electric, compressed natural gas (CNG), or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vehicle. This program does not require scrapping an old vehicle, and the rebates are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis (until June 26, 2015) for vehicles that have been approved by TCEQ. Over $6 million was still available as of early September.

TCEQ also administers a grant program that targets emissions reductions from school buses. In addition to emitting pollutants from the exhaust, some of the older school buses actually have dirtier air inside the bus compared to outside as emissions sneak into the interior from the engine compartment. The Texas Clean School Bus program helps school districts and others purchase and install emissions reductions technologies, such as diesel particulate filters, that help ensure children are breathing safe air on their way to school. TCEQ will be accepting applications for these grants until November 21, 2014.

Programs like TERP and the Texas Clean School Bus program are voluntary, and they have been successful in improving regional air quality since their inception in 2001. The work is not over, however, as several of our metropolitan regions (Houston-Galveston-Brazoria and Dallas-Fort Worth) still have extremely high and unhealthy ozone levels, ranking in the top 10 most polluted cities according to the American Lung Association’s 2014 State of the Air Report. (NOx is a precursor for ozone formation, which is why many emissions reductions programs target this particular pollutant). Other regions in our state are also struggling to meet existing air quality standards.

With the possibility that EPA may implement a more stringent ozone standard, based on recommendations from the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, Texas needs to step up its efforts to improve air quality. We can do this by motivating local businesses and individuals to take advantage of TERP grants, as well as pushing for the Texas Legislature to increase available TERP funds. At the end of the day, we all breathe the same air, so we can all play a role in making Texas’ air clean and healthy.

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