$270,000 in grants will help save fuel, cut pollution from diesel engines

Contact: Mark Sulzbach, 651-757-2770

St. Paul, Minn. — Big, older diesel engines put out a lot of pollution — so much that, in terms of reducing air pollution, changing even one of them to a newer, cleaner-burning model can be equivalent to taking thousands of cars off the road.

That’s why the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) offers grants to help operators of heavy diesel-powered equipment replace or retrofit their smoky old engines. Diesels are built like tanks and last for decades. MPCA’s clean diesel grants help give fleet operators an extra incentive to get rid of older engines that still work fine, but spew a lot of pollutants.

In late October, the MPCA expects to be able to offer about $270,000 in federal grant funds to help diesel owners take the plunge. Another reason to consider a swap: newer diesels not only burn much cleaner, but they are often much more fuel-efficient. Fleet owners can cut their fuel bills up to half and maintenance costs by thousands per year.

Thanks to a 2014 MPCA grant, Action Moving of Burnsville was able to buy a new moving truck with a more efficient, cleaner diesel engine that uses only half the fuel of the truck it replaced.

Bill Everson, president of Action Moving, said, “The new truck is a dream compared to the old one. We have had no problems with it. It’s averaging 10 miles per gallon, compared to 4.4 for the truck we replaced. I only wish all our trucks were as good as this one.”

That’s an exceptional mileage gain, but even a 10 or 20 percent improvement is well worth it to most owners of big diesel engines. The new equipment is also quieter, smoother, and has other advantages.

“It’s remarkable how clean the emissions are from new diesel engines,” said Mark Sulzbach, MPCA clean diesel grants manager. “They’ve cut major pollutants by 90 percent from pre-2007 engines, while also improving fuel efficiency — a win for both the environment and the engine owner.”

Susan Stewart, co-owner of Highland Sanitation in St. Paul Park, is happy with the two new garbage trucks she bought with the help of MPCA clean diesel grants last year. “The trucks are working fabulously,” she said. “Our maintenance expense went down, which was great in helping to pay for the new trucks.”

The MPCA’s clean diesel grants use federal funds to encourage replacing or upgrading older diesel-powered trucks and construction and marine equipment. Grants typically pay for up to 25 percent of the cost of replacing a vehicle. For off-road construction and marine equipment, the grants can fund up to 40 percent of an engine replacement. MPCA’s 2014 projects also included eight retrofits that added diesel particulate filters to long-haul trucks older than 2007.

The diesel grants are competitive and require that vehicles being replaced must be retired early and the engines scrapped. The MPCA encourages owners of off-road diesel construction equipment and on-road class 6-8 trucks to sign up for grant opportunities at Grants for clean diesel projects webpage. Grants should be open for application in late October or early November.