The Public Works Fleet in St. Paul, Minn., Goes Greener

St. Paul will replace 10 aging and inefficient public works vehicles with environmentally-friendly models, a switch that will remove the air pollution equivalent of 20,000 cars from city streets.
by James Walsh, Star Tribune | September 10, 2019 AT 3:01 AM

(TNS) — The City of St. Paul will replace 10 aging and inefficient public works vehicles with more environmentally friendly models, a switch that will remove the air pollution equivalent of 20,000 cars from city streets over the life of the equipment.

The move, announced Monday, is part of a collaboration between St. Paul Public Works and Environmental Initiative, a Minnesota nonprofit dedicated to cutting air, land and water pollution. Money from Environmental Initiative, a combination of grants from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and other funding sources, will pay for about 25% of the $1.5 million cost of the new equipment, with the city paying the rest.

It is the largest collaboration yet between the organization and a municipal public works department, officials said. They hope it won't be the last.

"We will help put these deals together with other local units of government," said Bill Droessler, senior managing director of clean air at Environmental Initiative. "We want anyone with any kind of big diesel thing to get hold of us."

The new vehicles replace three clam trucks, two dump trucks, two aerial lifts, a digger, a loader and a street sweeper. The older vehicles ranged from 17 to 24 years old and lacked modern environmental performance controls. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, most of the air pollutants in the state come from widespread sources that are not highly regulated — such as cars, trucks and construction equipment.

Mayor Melvin Carter was on hand at the city's Dale Street public works garage to laud the partnership as a way to boost St. Paul's green efforts.

"Upgrading our city vehicles will help reduce pollution and improve air quality," Carter said. "This project helps us build a more sustainable city for our future, and supports our commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050."

Every dollar spent on these types of diesel emission reduction projects results in $13 to $30 in public health benefits, according to the EPA. Shane Wurst, fleet manager for the City of St. Paul, said officials plan to continue looking for grants and other opportunities to make city equipment greener.

"It's not stopping here," he said.

Environmental Initiative's diesel reduction program, called Project Green Fleet, has removed the pollution equivalent of more than 750,000 vehicles from Minnesota's roads since 2005 by voluntarily retrofitting more than 4,600 diesel vehicles. Included in that total is 3,200 school buses that either had pollution-reducing equipment added to their engines, or catalytic converter-type devices installed onto their exhaust systems, Droessler said.

Until its partnership with St. Paul, much of Environmental Intiative's work has been with railroads and construction companies. The organization is eager to add more cities to the list, Droessler said.

"There will be more funding opportunities like this in the next few months. We will help put these deals together with other local units of government," he said.