Clean Diesel: Funding opportunities for cleaning your fleet and community

Jim Blubaugh
Manager, National Clean Diesel Campaign
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Washington, D.C.

We have all seen that black puff of diesel smoke coming from a truck or bus as it travels down the road. While diesel engines provide the power needed to keep our communities running, the exhaust from these workhorses contains pollutants that negatively affect public health and the environment. Fortunately, there are many cost-effective technologies and alternatives on the market today that can let us harness the power of these engines without compromising clean air and public health.

Diesel emissions and public health
Reducing emissions from diesel engines is one of the most important air quality challenges facing the United States. Many scientific studies have linked diesel pollution, which contributes to particulate matter (PM or soot), ground-level ozone (smog) and air toxics, to a number of serious respiratory and cardiac health effects, such as heart and lung disease, chronic bronchitis, exacerbations of asthma symptoms, and even premature mortality. EPA has classified diesel exhaust as likely to be carcinogenic at environmental concentrations.

Cleaning up diesel emissions
EPA's National Clean Diesel Campaign (NCDC) encompasses a two-pronged approach to reduce diesel emissions: emissions regulations for new engines and a voluntary program for the legacy fleet. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has taken action to set stringent standards for new diesel engines and their fuels. Cleaner truck standards will take effect in 2007 and standards for new nonroad equipment follow, starting in 2010. New regulations include lower sulfur fuel: 15 ppm sulfur or ultra low sulfur fuel (ULSD), available for the highway fleet starting in October 2006. The annual economic benefits of these regulations are expected to exceed $150 billion a year.

While new engines are being made to run cleaner, there are still more than 11 million engines, both highway and nonroad, already in use that will continue to emit large amounts of harmful pollutants. These engines may operate for 20 to 30 years or more. The National Clean Diesel Campaign's voluntary program works to accelerate emissions reductions from older diesel engines by promoting a variety of strategies, including cleaner fuels, retrofitting, repairing, repowering, replacing equipment, and idle reduction.

Cost-effective technological solutions
Many cost-effective and innovative technologies and strategies are currently available for reducing diesel emissions. To assist entities with choosing the appropriate retrofit technologies, EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have retrofit technology verification programs that evaluate the performance of advanced emissions control technologies and engine rebuild kits. The verification process evaluates the emission reduction performance of technologies, including their durability, and identifies engine operating criteria and conditions that must exist for these technologies to achieve those reductions. These verification processes serve to provide retrofit customers with the confidence that verified technologies will provide the emission reductions advertised by the manufacturer.

Communities taking action
In the search for cleaner air, communities are increasingly looking at reductions in diesel tailpipe emissions. To date, more than 600 partners from government, industry and the nonprofit sector have retrofitted over 200,000 engines. More than 300 clean diesel projects are currently underway and will provide approximately $5 billion in health benefits over the life of those retrofit programs (in year 2000 dollars).

The City of Milwaukee's Department of Public Works decided to take action by retrofitting their waste haulers with diesel oxidation catalysts. "We want to do anything possible to clean up the air," says Jeffrey Tews with the City of Milwaukee. "It's a health issue and the benefits to the citizens from the retrofit project will be phenomenal."

Fairfax County, Virginia was also looking for options to reduce emissions, but with a careful eye on the budget. The county has retrofitted over 1,000 vehicles so far, including dump trucks, waste haulers, maintenance vehicles and school buses. "For us, the retrofits are a cost-effective way to make a difference," says Dave DuVal, Fairfax County's Quality Control Superintendent. "They are relatively inexpensive, make a significant contribution, and show that fleets, whether public or private, can do something to improve air quality."

Los Angeles County Department of Public Works has extensive experience with Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) and with diesel retrofits. For more than three years, the department has been using only ULSD in all of its diesel-powered vehicles and equipment, including 500 diesel-powered trucks and 160 other pieces of diesel-powered equipment. The department has retrofitted 59 trucks with diesel particulate filters (DPFs) that have logged in more than 63,000 hours, and has installed diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs) on another 20 trucks. "The Department of Public Works has embraced the retrofit concept in order to provide cleaner air for all citizens," says Pamela Manning, Fleet Administrator for the County. "We started three years before the required date to help support new product development and provide cleaner diesels. Our department has taken a proactive role in retrofitting while also remaining fiscally, socially and environmentally responsible."

In taking action, communities at the local and regional level have formed regional clean diesel collaboratives across the country as part of the National Clean Diesel Campaign. These groups bring together state and local governments, nonprofit environmental organizations, engine manufacturers, retrofit technology manufacturers, and EPA to foster clean diesel projects. The regional collaboratives help communities identify potential projects; provide technical assistance, education and outreach information; and identify and leverage resources.

Available funding assistance
As the interest in clean diesel has grown, more financial resources are becoming available. At the federal level, EPA has awarded more than $20 million to 137 projects across the country to retrofit 11,000 vehicles or equipment. In 2006, approximately $12 million dollars will be granted through EPA's regional clean diesel collaborative network.

Congress has also recognized the importance of clean diesel through new legislation. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 includes the Diesel Emissions Reduction Program, which authorizes grant funds to be distributed for clean diesel projects. To date, funds have not been appropriated, but the President's budget request includes approximately $50 million for grants. Per the legislation, at least 50% of the funds will go to public fleets.

Additionally, the 2005 Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA- LU) included language that called out diesel retrofits as a priority activity for using Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds. CMAQ funds total at least $1.6 billion annually through 2009 and are administered through metropolitan planning organizations and/or state transportation agencies.

States have also provided funding for clean diesel projects. California's Carl Moyer and the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan each provide more than $140 million annually towards diesel retrofit projects. New Jersey voters passed a ballot measure that will provide approximately $85 million for reducing diesel emissions in public fleets.

Additional funding information can be found on the National Clean Diesel Campaign website ( or through any of the regional clean diesel collaboratives listed on the website.

Leading public and private fleet owners are reducing emissions from their fleets. The National Clean Diesel Campaign is building momentum as we work collaboratively across broad interests and develop incentives to achieve these important public health benefits.

Jim Blubaugh will give a presentation on this topic at the APWA Congress in Kansas City. His session, entitled "Clean Diesel 101: Why, How, and the Money," will be held Sunday, September 10, at 3:00 p.m. He can be reached at (202) 343-9244 or

Diesel oxidation catalyst on a City of Milwaukee truck

Cleaning Your Fleet

There is a wide range of emission reduction strategies available for any diesel vehicle or equipment application, including:

  • Retrofitting engines with verified technologies, such as diesel oxidation catalysts, diesel particulate filters and others
  • Using cleaner fuels
  • Replacing older equipment
  • Engine upgrades
  • Reducing idling
  • Properly maintaining equipment
  • Gaining operational efficiencies