You don’t often hear Buckeye’s saying they need to be more like Longhorns, but Ohio would do well to imitate the Texas approach to reducing diesel emissions in its state. Back in 2001, Texas established the Texas Emission Reduction Plan (TERP) that has approximately $500 million in funding to help reduce diesel emissions.
Why has Texas made such a heavy investment in its diesel emission reduction program? Because Texas identified the connection between air quality and business development.
Here is a quick tutorial on the connection: Counties that do not meet federal ozone or fine particle standards are designated as "non-attainment." A "non-attainment" classification constrains economic development and puts businesses in those counties at a competitive disadvantage. Reducing diesel emissions through grants and other incentives can be an effective way of reducing emissions to help attain federal air quality standards.
Ohio’s Diesel Emission Grant Program (DERG), with $19.8 million in financing set aside in the last budget, was an initial step toward a Texas like program. On July 29, 2008 the Ohio Department of Development awarded 10 grants under the Ohio Diesel Emission Reduction Grant (DERG) program. The grants pay for retrofits of emission controls, engine rebuilds, and a portion of the purchase price of new diesel vehicles. Total amount requested by the 10 successful grants recipients is $8.5 million.
Records obtained from ODOD show robust demand for diesel grants across the state. A total of 42 applications were filed requesting a total of $42 million dollars in funding. The requests were more then quadruple the total money available.
There is no doubt there has been frustration with the implementation of the DERG program. Thirty-two (32) of the applications had to be rejected for failing to provide necessary information. The most common errors that resulted in rejection were: inadequate or missing public-private partnership (PPP) agreements, missing emission calculations or no quote was provided for the diesel equipment to be replaced with grant funds.
On August 14th, I helped facilitate a meeting on behalf of the Ohio Diesel Coalition with the State agencies responsible for implementing the program (Ohio EPA, ODOD and ODOT). The meeting was productive and many positive suggestions were made for improving the grant application process in the second round of funding. Stay tuned for an update on the changes adopted by the State for the next grant round likely in September or October.
This will be the last chance to obtain a portion of the $19.8 million set aside in the State budget for the DERG program. The business community and the Diesel Coalition should have a common goal of seeing applications submitted that far outpace the remaining funding available (between $9 to 13 million). This will provide a solid platform to ask the Legislature to continue this important program or perhaps even be more like Texas and increase available funding.