BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Maryland has received a $1.8 million federal grant to reduce diesel emissions at the Port of Baltimore by replacing trucks, forklifts and other equipment with electric vehicles and cleaner alternatives, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.

The Maryland Environmental Service, a state-owned nonprofit, will use the Diesel Emission Reduction Act grant, along with $3.3 million in partner funds, to buy the new equipment.

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“Tackling the climate crisis isn’t just necessary to improve our environment and public health – it’s also an opportunity to create jobs and greater prosperity in our state,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen. “This latest federal investment in the Port of Baltimore will both strengthen one of Maryland’s major economic engines while promoting cleaner air and advancing environmental justice throughout the region.”

Since 2008, the EPA has awarded more than $1 billion in grants and rebates to modernize diesel-powered vehicles and speed up the transition to cleaner heavy-duty trucks and equipment, including $77 million in national and state grants last year.

The agency prioritizes areas with poor air quality where reduced emissions will help surrounding communities.

In a release, the EPA said the cleaner equipment would help the areas surrounding the port, particularly Turner Station in Baltimore County, by reducing the emission of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, pollutants that can contribute to respiratory illness and cardiovascular disease.

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“These cleaner trucks, and heavy equipment help deliver protections for those that need it most, such as the people living and working near ports,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz. “Thanks to the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act Grant Program, we are making historic investments into communities that are overburdened by pollution to address legacies of environmental injustice.”

Last year, Maryland Port Administration renewed and expanded a voluntary memorandum of understanding with state environmental agencies that included provisions to reduce diesel and greenhouse gas emissions and increase efficiency.

Since 2012, the port has replaced 275 Dray Trucks, which move cargo containers to nearby distribution facilities and warehouses, with cleaner vehicles. The port last received a Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grant in 2019, state officials said.

President Biden visited the Port of Baltimore last November to tout his trillion infrastructure package, which includes $17 billion for modernizing the nation’s ports.

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Later that month, Gov. Larry Hogan and state officials broke ground for the Howard Street Tunnel Expansion Project, which will enlarge a 126-year-old tunnel to accommodate trains with double-stacked containers traveling to and from the port.

CBS Baltimore Staff