Diesel Emissions Reduction Act And Clean Diesel Grants Program Aid Ports

In July, the Environmental Protection Agency released its fourth report on the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) program. Originally authorized in 2005 and reauthorized with unanimous bipartisan support in 2010, the DERA program, also known as Clean Diesel grants, has funded the replacement of older diesel engines with cleaner Tier III and Tier IV engines.

The popular DERA program was authorized only through 2016, but nevertheless received appropriations of $60 million in FY 2017 and $75 million in FY 2018.

Selected applicants are notified in April and May, and awards go out from June through October.

The inland marine segment of DERA grants is small compared to others. Grants are typically spread out around the country. A search of the Clean Diesel database for “marine” shows 77 entries out of 535 DERA grants awarded for a period from 2008 through 2018.

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The database shows that in 2018, DERA grants helped fund four new engines on two tugs in the Los Angeles Harbor; a new engine on a Mississippi River workboat, with funds granted to the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning Commission; an engine replacement on a Massachusetts ferry, and one in Connecticut.

Port Priority

The July report says, “Since 2008, fleets at marine and inland water ports have been a priority for DERA funding with $93 million ($38 million from ARRA [the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, or “stimulus bill”] going to port projects from 2008-2013.” (The word “fleets” here refers mostly to trucks.)

In fiscal years 2013 and 2014, EPA issued stand-alone port RFPs. In later years, it folded those grants into the rest of the program to reduce the administrative burden. Instead, it awarded points for ports and goods-movement projects.

Many of those port grants replaced older trucks at water ports, but some went to replace cranes, like the electric crane DERA helped fund at the Port of Los Angeles in 2014. After a 2016 report, EPA launched a Ports Initiative to address air quality issues at and near ports.

The July report notes that since the program was launched in 2008, “the public health impact of diesel engine emissions has received significantly more attention.” It also notes that several states have since launched other funds to finance diesel engine replacements.

The $3 billion Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trusts, set up with funds contributed by Volkswagen as part of a settlement over an emissions- detection cheating scandal by the carmaker, also makes funds available to states for diesel engine replacements.