As a new member of the Green Living Science Board of Directors, I was interested in joining due to the organization’s mission of, “increasing awareness of environmental issues and personal responsibility through education,” and its alignment with my day job at the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). I’ve worked with Green Living Science on a few recycling-related projects in the past, and I have always appreciated the good work Green Living Science does educating kids in schools and working with communities in Detroit. I hope that I can help the organization continue to do this and amplify their work in the future.
At EGLE, we serve the public to co-create a Michigan that respects people, treasures our natural resources, and fosters thriving communities. We hope to achieve this by serving the public, making reasoned decisions, communicating effectively, practicing leadership, and investing in our team. We recognize that critical to this vision is supporting healthy Detroiters.
One area that my team is engaged in that intersects with businesses, communities, and the environment is the potentially revolutionary opportunity presented by the state of Michigan’s allocation of Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Settlement funds. The state of Michigan has been allocated nearly $65 million from court settlements to mitigate oxides of nitrogen (NOx).
Through EGLE’s Fuel Transformation Program, we plan to use these funds to change the way people and freight move in Michigan. Over the next eight years, EGLE will provide grant money to fleet owners to modernize their vehicles by replacing their older diesel vehicles with new vehicles powered by clean diesel, alternate fuels, and electricity. The program will also support the development of an electric vehicle charging infrastructure and hydrogen fuel-cell refueling infrastructure to refuel light duty zero emission vehicles like you and I might drive. In fact, by the time this article is posted, we will have entered into a grant agreement to partially fund the first electric school buses in Michigan.
Over the past several years, we have worked successfully with multiple Detroit based organizations and fleet owners to upgrade older diesel vehicles, and we hope to accelerate the work we do in Detroit through the Fuel Transportation Program. Currently, we are engaged in the ongoing work of the Southwest Detroit Truck Route Study Steering Committee, which was formed to evaluate the impact on neighborhoods from the construction of the Gordie Howe Bridge. We are currently focused on outreach to truck companies to make them aware of the diesel vehicle replacement opportunities presented by the Fuel Transformation Program. From this outreach, we hope to be able to assist with fleet upgrades resulting in cleaner air for the surrounding neighborhoods.
Diesel emissions from older diesel vehicles are not only immediately harmful to Michigan’s residents, but they contribute to long term damage to the environment and climate. Contaminants from diesel exhaust include over 40 substances listed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as either Hazardous Air Pollutants (California Air Resources Board, Scientific Review Panel, 1998 and McClellan, Hesterberg, & Wall, 2012) or Criteria Pollutants (or precursors to Criteria Pollutants, such as Nitric Oxides and Nitrogen Dioxide--both components of Oxides of Nitrogen). Both Hazardous Air Pollutants and Criteria Pollutants have known adverse health impacts on humans.
When Oxides of Nitrogen chemically react with volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight, it forms a short-lived, but very harmful lung irritant – ground level ozone. Kids are vulnerable, as their lungs are still developing, and kids with asthma are particularly vulnerable. The Centers for Disease Control reports that 48 percent of children with asthma reported one or more asthma-related missed school days in 2007 (Centers for Disease Control, 2013), and it’s important that kids get to school.
Particulate Matter, another concern with diesel exhaust, consists of tiny particles that are small enough to be breathed into the deepest part of the lungs, where the contaminants are not easily coughed out, and can contact the blood stream. Children have a faster breathing rate than adults, and their lungs are not fully developed, so these health risks can greater for children than adults.
The mission at EGLE is to protect Michigan’s environment and public health by managing air, water, land, and energy resources. We are committed to supporting healthy Detroiters by promoting the use of cleaner fuels and technologies through the Fuel Transformation Program. We hope to provide resources and grant opportunities to enable people to act locally and think globally. Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages is a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal.
By: Chad Rogers
California Air Resources Board, Scientific Review Panel. (1998, April 22). The Report on Diesel Exhaust. Retrieved from California Air Resources Board Web site: https://ww3.arb.ca.gov/toxics/dieseltac/de-fnds.htm#targetText=Some%20of%20these%20substances%20are,including%20PAHs)%3B%20and%20styrene.
Centers for Disease Control. (2013). Asthma Facts. Centers for Disease Control. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/pdfs/asthma_facts_program_grantees.pdf
McClellan, R. O., Hesterberg, T. W., & Wall, J. C. (2012, July). Evaluation of carcinogenic hazard of diesel engine exhaust needs to consider revolutionary changes in diesel technology. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 63(2), 225-258.