In the News
CAPCOG wins federal grant to curb diesel pollution
Friday, October 12, 2012
Capital Area Council of Governments, the agency serving a 10-county region of Central Texas, has won a federal grant of more than $1 million to reduce air pollution from older diesel-powered engines.
The award followed an outreach process in which CAPCOG solicited potential projects from jurisdictions across the eligible five-county Austin metropolitan statistical area, including members of the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition. With less than two months to identify potential partners who could meet grant requirements – including eligible vehicles or equipment, ability to cover 75 percent of project expenses, and the potential for cost-effective results – CAPCOG coordinated a grant application that scored high enough to earn competitive federal funding.
“This opportunity is a testament to the power of regional collaboration and our continual work to help keep the area within federal ozone standards,” said CAPCOG Executive Director Betty Voights. “With the combined efforts of government and private industry, including CAPCOG’s leadership on air quality issues in the region, we’ve gained funding that will go a long way in helping reduce harmful diesel emissions that affect public health, the environment and our communities’ pocketbooks.”
The $1.016 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Program will help CAPCOG project partners including the cities of Austin and San Marcos, Travis and Williamson counties, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines and heavy-equipment dealer HOLT CAT replace selected older diesel-powered engines with cleaner-running vehicles and equipment in 2013 and 2014. CAPCOG’s initiative to rally eligible projects among various potential partners in the region made it possible to meet the grant’s $950,000 minimum funding-request threshold.
Diesel pollution, including nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and air toxics, is linked to serious health and financial impacts including asthma attacks, lost work days and premature death. With millions of diesel engines in operation nationwide, reducing the harmful emissions they produce can make a big difference in improving the region’s air quality, protecting human health and saving money.
Grant funding will offset 25 percent of local project costs to replace 27 diesel trucks owned by the participating cities, counties and others with newer, lower-emission trucks and replace 12 pieces of older diesel-powered ground-support equipment at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport with newer electric versions. The projects are expected to yield nearly $441,000 in estimated annual health benefits by reducing particulate matter emissions by 4.8 tons. They’re also expected to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by 71.2 tons, hydrocarbons by 6.7 tons, carbon monoxide by 33.8 tons and carbon dioxide by 316.1 tons and avoid the consumption of 28,478 gallons of diesel.
Grant applicants across the country were evaluated on general criteria as well as factors specific to their EPA region. In Region 6, which comprises Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, applicants additionally needed to show the extent to which their proposed project would occur in areas at risk of violating federal standards for ozone pollution or the extent to which it would minimize exposure and impacts on low-income or otherwise vulnerable communities.
Other than Houston’s Aldine Independent School District, CAPCOG was the only EPA Region 6 applicant awarded grant funding during this round. In the CAPCOG region, the five counties of the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos metropolitan statistical area – Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson – are considered at risk of exceeding federal ozone standards. In addition, CAPCOG’s project partners were able to demonstrate that they had eligible equipment, could achieve cost-effective emission reductions and could absorb 75 percent of their respective project expenses.
CAPCOG, one of 24 regional planning commissions organized under state law, has jurisdiction over several regional issues such as air quality. The agency established its Air Quality Program in 2002 to coordinate regional planning efforts and receives a recurring grant from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to assist areas nearing “nonattainment” status, or at risk of violating federal pollution standards. In addition, CAPCOG assists the region in recognizing opportunities for cooperation and eliminating unnecessary duplication in emergency communications, elderly assistance, law enforcement training, criminal justice planning, solid waste reduction, homeland security planning, infrastructure development, transportation planning and economic development.
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