Central Pa., Lehigh Valley projects receive new funding for clean transportation

Central Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley are among the regions hosting projects that were awarded funding Tuesday from the Shapiro Administration for clean transportation. 

In Dauphin County, Aero Corp. is receiving $300,000 for six DC fast chargers at Harrisburg International Airpoirt for Aero’s fleet of rental electric vehicles. The chargers will also be available to other car rental companies. 

In Northampton County, Bethlehem Parking Authority has been awarded $15,000 for two electric cars for parking enforcement. 

The state’s Highland Electric Fleets has been granted $75,000 for 10 electric vans and $225,000 for 20 DC fast chargers. 

In all, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) awarded a total of $1.5 million in 2022 Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant (AFIG) funding to help the state’s businesses, municipalities, and schools switch to clean transportation and improve air quality. 

DEP Acting Secretary Rich Negrin said in a statement that the Shapiro Administration is committed to growing Pennsylvania’s economy while protecting the state’s constitutional right to clean air and pure water. 

“A growing number of organizations and businesses in Pennsylvania want to lower their transportation emissions,” said Negrin. “Today’s announcement demonstrates a shared commitment between the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and our local communities and businesses to improve air quality, address climate change, and increase the use of renewable energy across the Commonwealth.” 

The AFIG program aids businesses, municipalities, and nonprofit organizations in the use of clean transportation to replace older gasoline or diesel fueled vehicles. Recipients of this grant will replace 88 old gas or diesel vehicles with 78 electric and 10 renewable natural gas vehicles and install 36 chargers for electric vehicles. 

Gasoline and diesel vehicles currently generate 47% of nitrogen oxides emissions in Pennsylvania, contributing to ground-level ozone that affects the health of children, older people, people who work or are active outdoors, and people with asthma, emphysema, or other lung conditions. 

In all, the transportation sector comprises 22% of Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions. 

Putting additional zero- and low-emission vehicles on Pennsylvania roads is aimed at reducing harmful air pollutants and lowering the level of carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases heating the climate. 

Pa. releases climate action plan

Joined by state senators and representatives, Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday unveiled a new climate action plan for Pennsylvania.

Also at the press conference, Wolf announced Pennsylvania is joining the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of 24 states that are trying to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions along the lines of the 2016 Paris Agreement, a global climate accord that was rejected by the Trump administration.

“States like Pennsylvania must take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect our communities, economies, infrastructures, and environments from the risks of a warming climate,” Wolf said.

The Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan includes more than 100 steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through actions such as increasing reliance on renewable energy, incentivizing energy efficient buildings and increasing the use of electric vehicles.

Robert Freeman, Pennsylvania state representative, (D-Northampton County), said that while the Climate Action Plan is a proposal and not law, legislation is being introduced by Representatives Steven McCarter and Carolyn Comitta in the House and Senator Steve Santarsiero in the Senate that would require the Alternative Energy Portfolio law to increase renewable energy use to 30 percent by the year 2030, referred to as “30 by 30.”

Wolf explained that changes like these can help return the earth’s temperature to pre-industrial levels, prevent further global warming and potentially curtail severe weather.

“Last year was the wettest ever recorded in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said, describing the recent flooding experienced by Pennsylvania as “devastating.”

“We must take additional steps to do our part to reduce climate change.” he said. “We need to get this done.”

He said change will be difficult and pose significant challenges. However, he believes the changes to be made are “smart decisions that are good for our economy.”

Sen. Jay Costa, (D-Allegheny County) echoed Wolf’s statements that the changes will be good for Pennsylvania’s bottom line, by saving money and growing “good paying jobs in Pennsylvania.”

Leaders of Nuclear Powers Pennsylvania, on organization that advocates for nuclear energy in the state, see the governor’s plan as a win for nuclear power.

“We have 16,000 team members working right now to support Pennsylvania’s nuclear industry all doing their part to create always-on, 24/7 carbon-free electricity,” said Martin Williams, co-chair of Nuclear Powers Pennsylvania in a news release.

Williams also said that the Beaver Valley and Three Mile Island nuclear power plants face closure without reforms like those proposed in the Climate Action Plan.

The action plan is third in the 10 years since state law began requiring the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to develop a climate plan and make periodic updates.