Opinion: Non-road emissions reductions matter too

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It seems like a lot of my columns lately have included the phrase “out of sight, out of mind.”

It applies to so many things in life. In the sustainable transportation sector, it certainly speaks to the harmful emissions that contribute to poor air quality. People often – and wrongly — associate steam from industrial and utility operations as harmful emissions coming from “smoke stacks.”

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A more accurate visible representation of the emissions that cause the greatest threat to air quality and subsequently human health are all of the vehicles of all types – passenger vehicles included – we see on our roads and highways each and every day.

One of those “out of sight, out of mind” contributors to harmful emissions, however, is the non-road sector. From a government perspective, non-road vehicles, engines and equipment are defined as those used in construction, agriculture, cargo handling at ports and airports, rail and marine operations, among others.

We’re proud of our work with our South Shore Clean Cities members to reduce emissions in this realm. The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor is an excellent example and is making tremendous strides in reducing emissions from its operations under the leadership of Port Director Ian Hirt.

The Port received Green Marine certification in 2019, a voluntary initiative to improve environmental performance beyond regulatory compliance in key areas including greenhouse gases and air pollutants, community impact and environmental leadership. South Shore Clean Cities has worked with the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor and its tenants on successful grant applications to bring an electric rail car mover and clean diesel engines to trucks and other transport equipment operating there and more applications are pending to help keep these positive actions moving forward.

South Shore Clean Cities was proud to present the Sustainability Leadership Award to the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor at our Annual Conference in February for its efforts.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management currently has funding available to help assist with future diesel emission reductions from non-road vehicles and equipment throughout the state. IDEM’s DieselWise Indiana program has approximately $2.2 million available through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) and the DERA option of the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund program.

As a member of the Midwest Clean Diesel Initiative (MCDI), DieselWise Indiana has implemented clean diesel projects on over 2,300 vehicles across Indiana with a total investment of over $12 million. MCDI is a collaboration of federal, state and local agencies, along with communities, non-profit organizations and private companies working together to make a visible difference in communities by reducing exposure to emissions from diesel engines and equipment. 

I am one of two representatives from Indiana serving on the MCDI Steering Committee, the other being IDEM’s Shawn Seals.

Seals and I are partnered for a webinar presented by South Shore Clean Cities on Oct. 20. Attendees received details on the 2020 DieselWise Indiana with Volkswagen DERA Option request for proposals – which are due Nov. 25 — and learn more about how South Shore Clean Cities can help interested parties with their applications.

Remember, it’s never too late to begin your environmental legacy.

This column first appeared in The Times of Northwest Indiana. Carl Lisek is executive director of South Shore Clean Cities and vice president of Legacy Environmental Services. The opinions are the writer’s.

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