State of Illinois Environment Protection Agency issued the following announcement on Aug. 29.
Gov. Bruce Rauner and Illinois EPA Director Alec Messina launched the "Driving a Cleaner Illinois" program, aimed at improving air quality in the state by primarily removing old diesel engines from service.
This program makes way for cities, schools, transit agencies, and private businesses to submit project ideas to the Illinois EPA detailing how they will replace the old engines with newer, more environmentally friendly options.
"Taking old diesel engines off our streets and out of our rail yards will lead to better air-quality for all of us," Gov. Rauner said. "The projects that will be funded in this first round will provide benefits to the most sensitive populations, including school children and residents in areas that do not meet federal air quality standards."
The "Driving a Cleaner Illinois" program is funded through a recent $108 million allocation to the state of Illinois from the Volkswagen (VW) Settlement.
The Illinois EPA is opening the first round of funding with $20 million for government-owned commuter rail and government-owned public transit bus projects in the Chicago Metropolitan area, which has the highest population and most robust public transportation networks in the state.
Subsequent funding rounds will include other areas of the state that were affected by the VW vehicles, including the Metro-East St. Louis area along with Champaign, DeKalb, LaSalle, McLean, Peoria, Sangamon and Winnebago Counties.
"Commuter rail projects will remove some of the oldest, dirtiest diesel engines in Illinois from service," said Illinois EPA Director Alec Messina. "Funding replacement of transit buses will promote all-electric and alternate fuel technology and funding for electric school buses will protect the public health of some of our most vulnerable Illinoisans."
"The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is striking the right balance in its implementation of the VW plan," said Todd Maisch, President and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. "Leveraging investments in new transportation infrastructure and heavy industry while maximizing emissions reductions will drive much needed investments in Illinois communities and goes a long way in making our environment even cleaner. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce applauds the IEPA for their efforts."
Mark Denzler, Vice-President & COO of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association, stated, "The IMA is pleased that Governor Rauner and the Illinois EPA have devised a thoughtful strategy to utilize the VW Settlement funds to get the best bang for the buck through future emission reductions."
The Illinois EPA is also proposing to fund an electric school bus pilot project in Cook County. Electric school buses are a relatively new technology and a pilot project will provide school districts with information on the potential for future use. The Illinois EPA is proposing to spend more than any other state on electric school buses, an additional $9 million in future funding rounds.
Jen Walling, Executive Director of the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC), voiced support for the program stating, "The proposed VW final settlement plan set out by IEPA will kick start electrification of the transportation sector. Electrifying the transportation sector leverages our increasingly clean energy-powered grid to clean our air, lower carbon emissions, and improve health conditions for the most vulnerable. The Illinois Environmental Council is especially excited about the plan's carve-out for electric school buses, which will protect young children from air pollution. IEC thanks Governor Rauner and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for working with environmental advocates and environmental justice communities on this final VW settlement plan."
The new program comes on the heels of Illinois EPA submitting its Beneficiary Mitigation Plan (BMP) to the VW Mitigation Trust. During public outreach for the BMP, the Agency received over 1,600 comments and 225 survey responses on how it should use the funds. From the public input, the Agency made changes to the BMP including increasing funding for school bus projects, increasing funding for on-road vehicle projects and providing funding for light duty electric vehicle charging stations.
This program opens today with applications available through a Notice of Funding Opportunity. Project applications will be due October 15, 2018. The Illinois EPA's Volkswagen Settlement website contains additional information on the VW Settlement, BMP, and a link to the Notice of Funding Opportunity, http://www.epa.illinois.gov/topics/air-quality/vw-settlement/index.
Original source can be found here.