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Grants to Help Cities Zero In on Commercial Emissions

The Natural Resources Defense Council has announced three cities will receive grants as part of the Delivering Zero Emissions Communities program — a move toward 100 percent zero emissions commercial vehicles by 2030.

The San Diego skyline.
San Diego was selected as one of three cities to receive grant funding from the Natural Resources Defense Council as part of the Delivering Zero Emissions Communities program.
Shutterstock/Kyle Sprague
Three cities are moving forward with community-driven plans to reduce emissions from delivery and heavy-duty vehicles.

Chicago, San Diego and San Jose, Calif., have been selected for the newly launched Delivering Zero Emissions Communities program by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Local community groups in these cities will be awarded $100,000 each for their partnership efforts to develop actionable plans toward the goal of 100 percent zero-emissions commercial vehicles by 2030. The cities will also receive in-kind support from industry and policy experts, from organizations like CALSTART, International Council on Clean Transportation and NRDC, said Nadia Perl, western regional communications manager for NRDC.

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), in partnership with the city of San Diego, established a regional Medium- and Heavy-Duty Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Blueprint. The grant funding from NRDC will help to ensure “the blueprint reflects community needs and perspectives,” said Jerry McCormick, senior public information officer for the city of San Diego.

“This grant will build capacity for the Environmental Health Coalition and partners to engage residents around the Blueprint and ensure the community is part of the decision-making process,” he explained.

Much of the focus will be on portside communities, which are exposed to higher levels of vehicular pollution.

Guiding San Diego toward its zero-emission goals is the Community Emissions Reduction Plan (CERP), which includes ambitious zero-emission goals such as reducing diesel particulate matter by 80 percent from 2018 levels by 2031. Also, heavy-duty trucks traveling through portside communities should be 100 percent zero-emission five years ahead of California state requirements. The CERP also outlines a goal to establish four heavy-duty truck charging infrastructure locations in the portside communities by 2024.

“One of the primary challenges to meet these goals will be building out a network of charging and fueling infrastructure for new zero-emission vehicles and identifying the necessary funding,” said McCormick.

The Delivering Zero Emissions Community grant and the region’s own Medium- and Heavy-Duty Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Blueprint will guide the planning for these infrastructure investments, say officials.

Chicago will also focus its zero-emission community efforts on neighborhoods overburdened by commercial traffic, as well as an electric cargo-bike pilot program for deliveries, and a program to encourage businesses to transition to electric vehicle fleets.

San Jose, meanwhile, will use the grant funding to create an Urban Freight Working Group with the private sector, launch an Equity Task Force with community members and develop a zero-emissions neighborhood pilot program.

Some 25 cities were considered for the grant funding, and were evaluated across a range of metrics like co-ownership and collaboration with community partners, commitment to equity and realistic ambition and impact by June 2022, said Perl.

Funding for the program comes from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, ClimateWorks and Tempest Advisors. Implicit in each of the three cities to receive funding was an ability to move quickly beyond the accelerator phase and into a more self-supporting project.

“The intention is that this work will continue well beyond this one-year accelerator program,” said Perl in an email. “Each of these cities is already working toward zeroing out pollution from their freight and goods movement systems, and this program is designed to super-charge those efforts. The involvement of community partners will help to build long-term political support and ensure that the programs benefit the communities that are most impacted by diesel pollution and other harms.”

Editor's note: A change was made to reflect the correct name of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.