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Responsible for roughly 30 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, the construction industry is constantly pursuing cleaner methods of development. Along with the use of green building materials and smarter pollution prevention measures, the use of sustainable construction equipment is being looked at as a way to ensure significant reductions in diesel emissions in terms of exposure and tons of pollution produced.

The EPA has announced the availability of $40 million in competitive grant funding for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program. The clean diesel program delivers support for projects that protect human health and improve air quality by reducing emissions from diesel engines.

“These grants will incentivize improvements to aging diesel fleets and improve air quality throughout the country,” commented EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “EPA will continue to target funds to areas facing significant air quality issues.”
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Since the DERA program’s inception in 2008, the EPA has awarded funds to more than 730 projects across the nation. Many of the grants helped to fund cleaner diesel engines that operate in economically disadvantaged communities where residents suffer from higher-than-average instances of asthma and heart and lung diseases. 

Developing cleaner diesel engines requires enlisting a variety of stakeholders. Senator Tom Carper, top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, said, “The DERA program continues to be a bipartisan, commonsense approach to curbing toxic diesel emissions, promoting public health, and spurring economic growth. In fact, since its inception, DERA has been one of the most cost-effective clean air programs, with an average of $13 in health and economic benefits for every $1 put into the program.”

The recent grant funding prioritizes fund distribution to areas hard hit by poor air quality concerns associated with diesel use. Applicants must request funding from the EPA, and the maximum amount of federal funding awarded varies by region. The region that covers Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin will see the highest distribution of grant funds.

Rep. Ken Calvert commented on the DERA program: “Steps to reduce emissions from older diesel trucks are some of the most cost-effective measures we can take to improve the air Americans breathe. By prioritizing the DERA grant funding in regions that have some of our most complex air quality challenges, the resources being awarded can make a significant impact. I am pleased Congress was able to provide $40 million for these grants and appreciate the efforts of everyone at EPA in making it a success.”

Applicants eligible for grant funding include regional, state, local or port authorities with jurisdiction over transportation or air quality. Nonprofit organizations may apply if they provide pollution reduction or educational services to diesel fleet owners or have, as their principal purpose, the promotion of transportation or air quality.

Diesel equipment eligible for funding includes school buses; class 5–class 8 heavy-duty highway vehicles; locomotive engines; marine engines; and, of course, non-road engines, equipment or vehicles used in construction, handling of cargo (including at ports or airports), agriculture, mining, or energy production.

Since its implementation, DERA has upgraded 73,000 vehicles and has saved over 450 million gallons of fuel. It is estimated that the total lifetime emission reductions achieved through DERA funding are 14,700 tons of particulate matter and 335,200 tons of nitrogen oxides.
Industry leaders like Caterpillar and Volvo have been vigilant in finding a balance between environmental stewardship, social responsibility and economic growth. By integrating sustainability practices into the core of such businesses, these companies are ensuring continued success in the decades to come.

Caterpillar’s CEO, Jim Umpleby, recently detailed the company’s position: “Collaboration is a watchword for Caterpillar Foundation investments and our sustainability efforts worldwide. We know collaboration among our employees and with our customers, suppliers and dealers is necessary to achieve our vision of improved environmental quality and stronger communities around the world. We know working together we can make greater progress toward our sustainability goals and greater strides toward building a better world.”

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