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State Funding Aims to Help Businesses, Schools, Agencies Move To Cleaner Fuel Vehicles

Amy Schirf, education coordinator at the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority, in one of the authority's trucks.
Anne Danahy

Regan Hosterman, operations manager at the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority, started a truck that runs on compressed natural gas.

“Much quieter,” Hosterman said, comparing it with the old diesel trucks.

The compressed natural gas or CNG truck is not only less noisy — it’s cleaner. 

The authority’s move to CNG trucks is one of 18 cleaner fuel vehicle projects in 13 counties getting a total of $2.1 million in funding from the Department of Environmental Protection to support cleaner fuel vehicle projects around the state. 

Joanne Shafer, the authority’s deputy director and recycling coordinator, said the benefits of CNG include better air quality, lower emissions and longer-lasting vehicles.

“The environmental impact has been absolutely phenomenal,” Shafer said.

Over the years, funding from the state’s Alternative Fuel Incentive Grants has helped the authority convert its entire fleet of about 20 to 25 vehicles to CNG.

“In general, with recycling and CNG vehicles and all of the environmental things we do here, we’re looking at the environmental equivalent of about 60,000 cars a year off the road in emissions,” Shafer said.

In the recently announced round of grants, the authority is getting nearly $60,000 toward two CNG trucks. 


A truck at the compressed natural gas station Clean Energy Group runs at the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority site.
Credit Anne Danahy / WPSU
A truck at the compressed natural gas station Clean Energy Group runs at the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority site.

Other grants include $300,000 to Noble Environmental Incorporated in Allegheny County toward eight CNG garbage trucks; $300,000 to UPS in Westmoreland County toward 12 CNG tractors; $300,000 to UPS in Montgomery County for 12 CNG tractors; and $42,500 to Radnor Township School District in Delaware County toward five propane school buses.

The DEP program is aimed at improving air quality, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change. Its funding goes to replacing gas and diesel-fueled vehicles with cleaner fuels like electric, biodiesel and compressed natural gas.

Not everyone thinks the state is moving in the right direction. In August 2019, the state was criticized after announcing how it would spend some of the money it got as part of a settlement with Volkswagen. The car company was caught cheating on vehicle emissions standards.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration set up the Driving PA Forward initiative to disburse the money. Some of that went to replacing old diesel engines with new ones or moving from diesel to compressed natural gas or propane.

Joe Minott, executive director and chief counsel of the Clean Air Council, said he is disappointed that DEP has not done more to support electrifying the transportation system.

“If we follow the science on climate change we need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Minott said in an email. “It is simply not enough that in the year 2020 we are replacing an older fossil fuel powered car or truck with a more modern fossil fuel powered car or truck.”

He said the administration should show leadership in moving away from fossil fuels.

Shafer said she thinks the next thing coming down the pike will be electric. The style of trucks they use aren’t available right now as electric vehicles.

“When these are ready to be traded in and to be upgraded, will we be going to electric?” she said. “I guess only time will tell.”

Anne Danahy has been a reporter at WPSU since fall 2017. Before crossing over to radio, she was a reporter at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, and she worked in communications at Penn State. She is married with cats.
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