The nonprofit Minnesota Environmental Initiative received a $3 million grant today to reduce diesel emissions in school buses and other heavy-duty diesel vehicles.
The EPA grant will fund Project Green Fleet, a voluntary partnership between state private and public sectors that aims to reduce air pollution.
The funds will be issued to retrofit school buses and other vehicles with pollution control equipment, and provide engine repowers, vehicle replacements and idle reduction technologies.
The program will upgrade at least 684 diesel engines, including up to 275 school buses statewide.
Diesel engines emit pollutants such nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and other air toxins. Studies have linked these pollutants to serious health problems, including asthma, lung cancer and heart disease.
"Minnesota is proactively taking responsibility to enhance our quality of life by reducing harmful emissions and lowering the health risk to our children," said David Thornton, assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
Bill Droessler, director of environmental projects for the Minnesota Environmental Initiative, said the level of funding is significant, given that the state already meets national emissions and air quality standards.
"It's an enormous amount of money to go into a program like this in a state that's in attainment," Droessler said.
Government officials estimate that about 50,000 direct work hours will be generated from the funding.
Under federal stimulus money guidelines, the work needs to be completed by September 2010. Droessler said he expects the program to begin work in about three weeks.