Industry Groups Support DERA Funding

At the March 13 U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing concerning the reauthorization of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA), the Diesel Technology Forum submitted a formal statement to the hearing’s record, highlighting the effectiveness of the program and its ability to deliver benefits to local communities across the country.

The Diesel Technology Forum is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of diesel engines, fuel and technology.

“Senators would be hard-pressed to find another environmental program that has enjoyed such bipartisan support or that has been as cost-effective while bringing innovative clean air and public health benefits to communities across the country,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the forum. “We believe these factors will be compelling as the Senate evaluates reauthorization and funding levels for the coming year.”

The DERA program passed the Senate by a 92 to 1 vote in 2005, was passed by unanimous consent twice since then in the Senate, and by voice vote in the House in 2010. Past solicitations to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for DERA program funding have consistently been oversubscribed, reflecting a high level of ongoing interest and demand from states and local communities. The DERA program is currently authorized to receive $100 million annually.

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Schaeffer continued: “Another measure of DERA’s success has been its ability to consistently bring together a broad and diverse coalition of stakeholders representing regulators, engine, vehicle, equipment manufacturers, emissions control technology companies and environmental and public health groups; not just at the federal level but in regional collaboratives and local groups around the country working together to improve air quality.”


Most of the DERA program benefits have occurred through replacing, repowering or retrofitting older generations of technology with the newest generation of clean diesel power that virtually eliminates particulate matter (PM) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions. DERA has funded a wide range of projects such as upgrading school buses and repowering locomotives, passenger ferries and construction machines, all to operate with substantially lower emissions in communities in which they serve. On the rivers, DERA grants have financed the repowering of older vessels with newer, cleaner engines.

“The newest generation of clean diesel technology is now deployed across all ranges and types of new diesel-powered vehicles, equipment and machines,’ said Schaeffer. “Many of these innovations are manufactured here in the United States. In 2017, nearly 900,000 heavy-duty diesel engines were manufactured in facilities located in 13 states. North Carolina is the leading state for the manufacture of heavy-duty diesel engines with 327,500 rolling off assembly lines in the state. Getting more of these newer generation engines in service will deliver immediate air quality benefits.”

Billions In Health Benefits

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that approximately $12.6 billion in health benefits have been gained from the investment of $700 million in DERA in the past 10 years.

To date, more than 73,000 vehicles, engines and pieces of equipment have been replaced or retrofitted thanks to the DERA program.

Every dollar from the DERA program that is invested in diesel retrofits and replacements yields at least $13 in environmental and public health benefits.

The program has saved more than 450 million gallons of fuel and reduced 14,700 tons of PM and 335,200 tons of oxides of nitrogen NOx. The program achieves these benefits by requiring significant non-federal matching funds for projects seeking funding.

A jointly funded government and industry research effort known as the Advanced Combustion Emissions Study (ACES), carried out through the Health Effects Institute and Coordinating Research Council, evaluated the performance of the latest generation (2011 and newer) of clean diesel technology used in the largest commercial (Class 8) trucks.

Phase 1 of that study determined that fine particle emissions generated from these truck engines were lower than the EPA standard, while the second phase of the research determined that there were no adverse health outcomes due to exposure from the exhaust from these engines.

Beginning in 2014, similar reductions in PM and NOx emissions have been achieved in the wide range of off-road engines that power everything from small construction equipment and farm machinery to freight locomotives, marine vessels and workboats.

DERA Aids Ports

Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), also testified in favor of continuing DERA.

“Over the last 10 years, this funding has been key to incentivizing and expanding port environmental programs to improve air quality impacted by port operations. DERA has always enjoyed strong bipartisan support for its voluntary nature in partnering with local communities to reduce certain diesel emissions,” he told committee members.

“Reducing air emissions continues to be a high priority for ports, especially in areas where a port plans to expand, is located in a National Ambient Air Quality Standards non-attainment area or is close to residential communities. Ports are often in urban areas where cities and towns emerged. They must share this crowded space with large populations that often live close to the port. Ports are multimodal facilities served by vessels, trucks and rail, and use cargo handling equipment—many of which use diesel fuel.”

He added, “Through partnerships such as DERA, seaports are working to reduce air emissions, as well as find solutions to the challenge of aquatic invasive species and protect and create wildlife habitats. In the area of air emissions, AAPA was an early supporter of the creation of the DERA grants and has supported continued funding for this program over the years. Additionally, AAPA supported the adoption of the North American Emissions Control Area to require the use of low sulfur fuel by marine vessels. This has significantly reduced air emissions from ocean-going ships, the largest air emission concern of most ports.

“DERA, on the other hand, is a voluntary program that helps address mostly other contributors, such as trucks and locomotives, as well as equipment such as cargo handling equipment including cranes.”

Clean Diesel Grants Crucial To Ports

“According to EPA between 2008 and 2018, a total of 150 clean diesel grants have been awarded to port-specific projects, totaling $148 million. An additional $64 million was awarded through DERA to multi-sector projects that involve ports. Between 2013 and 2017, about 40 percent of total DERA funding was awarded for ports’ projects.

“The FY 2018 grants have been, or will soon be, awarded to projects in and around seaports totaling approximately $19 million of the total $41 million available. An addition, $5 million is for locomotive projects, many of which carry port cargo,” said Nagle.

In applying for grants, ports determine their biggest need. Just last month, the EPA awarded a DERA grant of $400,000 to the Alabama State Port Authority, to replace a 1982 locomotive with a Tier IV locomotive engine. EPA estimates that this change will result in a lifetime reduction of nearly 102.2 tons of nitrogen oxides and 3.4 tons of PM. This is the port’s fourth such grant. When it is complete, the port will have converted half of its locomotive fleet from tier 0 to tier 4 yielding significant reductions in the port’s emissions profile.

Other ports such as Long Beach, Georgia, Maryland and Tacoma have used DERA funds for cleaner locomotives as well.

Clean Trucks

“DERA has been especially helpful in supporting larger ports’ clean truck programs,” Nagle added. “This includes clean truck programs at the Port of Baltimore, Massport [the ports of Massachusetts], New York and New Jersey, Houston, Seattle, and Georgia. These programs help truckers who service the ports buy new cleaner ‘drayage’ trucks that not only reduce emissions but are more fuel efficient. These trucks do not have the resources to replace their trucks as many are independent operators and these trucks are very long lasting.”

Nagle cited several examples of DERA port funding.

• The Maryland Port Administration has been awarded seven competitive DERA grants for the Port of Baltimore totaling over $7 million, and another $900,000 through a DERA stateaward. They have used their grants to exchange 181 port drayage trucks, 110 pieces of cargo handling equipment, four marine diesel engines and six switcher locomotives. Between 2012 and 2016, due to the availability of funding programs like DERA, the Port of Baltimore was able to reduce emissions by 19 percent while cargo throughput increased by10 percent. Their trucking replacement program, for example, has resulted in a reduction of 2,056 tons of nitrous oxides; 84 tons in 2.5 particulate matter; 78 tons in hydrocarbons and 524 tons in carbon monoxide.

• The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey also has a very successful clean truckprogram that has been expanded due to DERA grants. In February of this year, EPA announced that it has awarded $2 million to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to replace up to 80 model year 2006 and older short-haul trucks that service Port Authority facilities with cleaner, newer model year trucks by offering truckers up to 50 percent of the cost to scrap and replace each vehicle up to $25,000. According to EPA, this Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grant will foster the replacement of older trucks with 2013 and newer trucks and will reduce emissions of diesel particulate matter and other pollutants such as nitrogen oxides. EPA expects this grant to result in emission reductions of 49.5 tons of nitrogen oxides, 16.5 tons of carbon monoxide and 2.15 tons of fine particulates per year.

Ports have also used DERA grants for supporting repowering or replacing cargo handling equipment.

• Massport, for example, received a grant in 2015 of $634,000 to retrofit five rubber-tired-gantry cranes with new Tier 4 engines resulting in a reduction in short tons of NOx 101; carbon monoxide of 74; carbon dioxide of 1,055 and particulates of 11.

• The Ports of Virginia, Georgia, Oakland, Long Beach, Houston and Los Angeles have also used their grants to retrofit or replace cargo handling equipment.

• The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) reports that of the seven DERA grants it received, two provided funds to assist in the repowering of 20 rubber-tired gantry cranes with variable frequency inverters. GPA was on the forefront of changing the RTG technology with the variable inverters that provided power when needed, as needed, instead of running at full power. This change resulted in immediately cutting fuel use by 33 percent and the associated emissions. Total lifetime emissions reductions are estimated at 36,400 tons.

• The Port of Virginia also reports on significant benefits from DERA grants related to dredge repowering, a hybrid shuttle carrier demonstration project and the more recent hybrid shuttle carrier project that is just underway. As the most recent award supports nine shuttle trucks, the health benefits are triple from its 2014 award.

• Other port areas that used DERA grants for marine vessels include Cleveland, Portland, New Jersey, Puget Sound, Long Beach and Connecticut.

• The Port of Portland helped leverage a DERA grant in 2011 obtained by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to repower the Dredge Oregon that resulted in diesel particulates reduction of 80 percent and a reduction of greenhouse gases by 25 percent. The Dredge Oregon was the port’s largest diesel particulate emitter.

The EPA Ports Initiative has a website that shows more details for all the port-related grants. According to that website, the vast majority of port grants in the last few years have been awarded through the national program, rather than the state DERA allocations.

For example, said Nagle, in FY 2017, 14 port awards came from the national program and only two came from the state DERA allocation.