OPINION: Looking back on a year of record sustainable transportation success

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2021 is a year that will not soon be forgotten.

While many are eager to rip that final page off the calendar, those of us at South Shore Clean Cities are expressing gratitude for all of our members and partners who made this the most successful year in our 22-year history.

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We learned this year that our members and partners in 2020 reduced more than 18.7 million gasoline gallon equivalents, a record for our coalition. That’s the greenhouse gas emission reduction equivalent of removing more than 36,000 passenger vehicles from the road for one year.

Their efforts are truly making a difference and are helping to improve air quality, increase support for domestic fuels and technologies, reduce dependence on imported oil, support economic development and enhance the overall quality of life for those who live, work and play in Indiana.

The year started with our biggest announcement to date.

The U.S. Department of Energy selected South Shore Clean Cities to manage the new statewide Clean Cities program effective Feb. 1, 2021. The move meant our 18-county Northern Indiana Clean Cities coalition was expanding statewide. We are thankful to the U.S. Department of Energy for selecting us for the role and to our members and partners for their support in helping to make it possible.

As was the case with many organizations, the first half of the year saw more virtual events and webinars than in-person events. While we missed spending time with our members, we were thankful to be able to use technology to share key information on developments in the industry. Some of the topics covered included sustainable ports, clean diesel, nonroad applications, funding opportunities, medium- and heavy-duty operations, propane autogas and more.

We were thankful to be able to host our Annual Conference & Expo in person in August and to celebrate our annual award winners for their sustainable transportation efforts.

The fall brought with it announcements from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Indiana Department of Transportation about major grant awards for South Shore Clean Cities and our members and partners. In September, the Indiana Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund Committee announced South Shore Clean Cities and its members were awarded $8.9 million in grants for 106 alternative fuel and electric vehicles and pieces of equipment.

The awards will help to fund three electric and 74 propane school buses, six compressed natural gas transit busses, two electric refuse truck, 18 compressed natural gas refuse trucks, one electric semi truck and two electric material handlers across the state.

Many of these projects will be implemented in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties through our Green Fleet Program with the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC). We are thankful for their continued partnership and the work they do to help support sustainable transportation in the Region.

The Committee also awarded South Shore Clean Cities a five-year, $800,000 grant for outreach, education and marketing for the statewide electric vehicle charging network funded by the VW program. The DC fast-charging network will be managed by the Indiana Utility Group through a grant awarded by the Committee earlier this year. South Shore Clean Cities will partner with the Indiana Utility Group and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to provide outreach, education and marketing for the project.

Also in September, Congressman Frank Mrvan announced two grant awards for South Shore Clean Cities under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Diesel Emission Reduction Act program totaling $7.8 million. The awards will be used to assist in our efforts to reduce diesel emissions throughout the region.

As you can see, 2021 was a year of tremendous growth for our Coalition. We thank all of our members and partners for their support of our efforts as well as for their work with sustainable transportation in their own operations.

We are looking forward to shattering this year’s record accomplishments in 2022. We wish you and yours a happy, healthy holiday season and a prosperous new year.

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

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

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