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Calif. Air District Gets $9M from Feds for Zero-Emissions

Two grant proposals from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District each received $4.5 million from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. One would replace dirty-burning agricultural tractors; the other, heavy-duty diesel trucks.

(TNS) — If it seems like there's a lot of commercial truck traffic in Kern County and throughout the San Joaquin Valley, it's not your imagination.

The valley represents less than 18% of the state in total area, yet 45 percent of all truck traffic in California occurs in the valley. That doesn't even count diesel-burning agricultural tractors, diesel-powered pickups and train locomotives.

This situation presents an ongoing dilemma in a topographical region that collects and holds onto smog and particulate pollution like few areas in the United States.

"Addressing emissions for this sector is a priority for the district," said Jaime Holt, chief communications officer for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

On Thursday, the district's governing board moved to accept more than $9 million in grant funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, part of a stream of funding it has been using for some two decades to retrofit or replace agricultural tractors and heavy-duty diesel trucks in the San Joaquin Valley.

"Grant funds such as these provide significant resources to assist in the deployment of the latest and cleanest technologies to expedite emission reductions, protect public health and meet air quality targets," Samir Sheikh, the district's executive director and air pollution control officer, stated in a news release.

"With these funds and matching investments by valley residents and farmers, the EPA is acknowledging the unique challenges of the valley and providing much needed and appreciated financial assistance," he said.

According to the release, the district submitted two proposals to the EPA for the highly competitive Diesel Emission Reduction Act 2022-2023 National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program. The district's agricultural tractor replacement proposal and its heavy-duty diesel truck replacement proposal were each awarded $4.5 million in funding, the maximum amount available under this grant.

But that $9 million is just a fraction of the nearly $1 billion the district has provided to the local trucking and farming industries in generous incentives to replace older, high-polluting trucks and farm tractors with significantly cleaner vehicles.

"In general, all of the district’s incentive programs require a match from the participant," Holt said in an email Friday.

Usually, the district ponies up more than half.

"Generally, this required match amount is between 30% to 70% of the total project cost," Holt said. "For the tractor program, the district generally provides up to 60% of the cost of the new tractor, however, the district provides higher incentives for small growers (up to 80%)."

The truck replacement program is similar, although the total funding is significantly smaller.

Depending on the size of the truck the cost will vary, Holt said. Replacing a heavy-duty Class 8 truck with a new zero emission vehicle averages about $550,000.

"Our current program pays up to $410,000, of which the DERA funds can cover 45%," Holt said. Additional funding can raise the district's portion substantially, covering most of the price tag.

"The actual incentive is based on project-specific information such as miles traveled and age of (the) truck," she said. "The remaining amount would be paid by the truck owner."

To date, the Heavy-Duty Diesel Truck Replacement Program has provided more than $158 million to replace more than 3,000 valley-based heavy-duty trucks with new, cleaner trucks and has resulted in the reduction of more than 6,500 tons of nitrogen oxides and 53 tons of particulate matter. The $4.5 million from this grant will help fund the replacement of approximately 18 older, high-polluting trucks with replacement electric trucks certified to zero-emissions.

The district’s larger Agricultural Tractor Replacement Program has provided more than $820 million to replace more than 12,800 older, high-polluting agricultural tractors with new, significantly cleaner units, according to the news release, resulting in the reduction of more than 67,700 tons of NOx. The $4.5 million from this grant will help fund the replacement of approximately 102 additional older, high-polluting tractors, with match funding provided by the grant recipients.

Asked why the tractor program is so much larger than the truck replacement program, Holt said the tractor program has had significantly more funding due to specific state monies directed at this category of equipment. Additionally, because incentives can only be provided for technologies and projects that go above and beyond what is required by state regulations on heavy-duty trucks, the pool of potential projects is limited.

Off-road ag equipment, she said, is not subject to those regulations and as such has broader eligibility.

A complete listing of available district grant programs for residents, businesses and agencies and their requirements can be found at or by calling program staff at 559-230-5800.

©2024 The Bakersfield Californian, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.