How MPOs use CMAQ Funding for Alternative Fuel Vehicle and Infrastructure Projects (Text Version)
This is a text version of the video for How MPOs use CMAQ Funding for Alternative Fuel Vehicle and Infrastructure Projects presented on Jan. 18, 2017.
Sandra: Welcome to today's Clean Cities Webinar. I'm Sandra Loi from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Today's webinar will feature discussion from two metropolitan planning organizations about using CMAQ or Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program funding for alternative fuel projects. Linda Bluestein, a National Clean Cities co-director will host and moderate today's webinar. Before we get started and I pass things over to Linda to kick off the webinar and introduce our speakers today I'd like to go over a few items so you know how to participate in today's webinar.
As noted at the start of the webinar all attendees are in listen only mode and will remain so through the entirety of the webinar. When you logged into today's webinar by default you will reset to listen in using your computer's speaker system. If you would prefer to join over the phone just select telephone in the audio pane and the dial in information will be displayed. You do need to select one or the other. We are recording today's webinar and it will be posted on the Clean Cities website within the next ten days.
We will be hosting a question and answer session at the conclusion of the presentation. We encourage you to submit questions as the presentations are taking place. You can do so by typing your questions into the questions box of your control panel. We will collect these and address them during the question and answer session. Without further ado I'd like to pass things over to Linda. Linda you may begin.
Linda: Thank you very much Sandra. Hello everyone, I'm Linda Bluestein. I'm co-director of the Department of Energy Clean Cities programs and today we're going to hear from two very successful metropolitan planning organizations about using Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program funding for alternative fuel projects. First I'd like to introduce Jim Stack. He's going to be our first speaker. And he's the executive director of the Genesee Transportation Council. That's in New York.
Jim has spent 17 years at the GTC and during that time served as program manager of transit planning, finance program manager, and assistant director. Jim will talk about partnership with the Clean Cities Coalition to support the deployment of nearly 150 propane, compressed national gas, and electric vehicles. By partnering with Genesee Region Clean communities the program benefitted from a fuel neutral organization's knowledge about the new technologies and relationships with the private sector.
Next I'd like to introduce Jeff Sheffield. Jeff is a 25 year transportation professional. He's the executive director of North Florida Transportation Planning Organization. He leads regional coordination and policy development and oversees project managers for many short and long term programs. Jeff Sheffield will talk about hosting the North Florida Clean Fuel Coalition and the importance of alternative fuels in their regions by utilizing CMAQ funding. They will have installed electric vehicle charging stations, helped convert a county fleet to compressed natural gas, and purchased CMG conversion kits for sanitation trucks.
And I am going to talk a little bit about the Clean Cities program and at the moment I'm have a little trouble – technical difficulty. Okay there we go. So first I'll provide a brief overview of the Clean Cities program. Clean Cities is making a difference in our energy, environment, and economic security. Our program has a goal of mass adoption of alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles as well as smarter driving habits and idle reduction. We're working towards reducing petroleum use and transportation, greenhouse gas submissions, independence on foreign oil, and also to help consumers and fleet save money on fuel and vehicles.
But next I'd like to discuss our national and local partnerships. We work in Clean Cities at both the national and local level to share information and build partnerships. The National Clean Cities program which is headquarter at the US Department of Energy and who is sponsoring this webinar works with national labs and industry experts to develop tools and resources, provide technical assistance, facilitate training, and create national partnerships. At the local level there are nearly 100 clean cities coalitions at the city, state, or regional level that work with local stakeholders to cut petroleum use in transportation.
Each of the dots on this map represents one of our Clean Cities Coalition who have been designated by DOE. Many of the coalitions have a strong relationship with planning organizations. Or some of them are even hosted in planning organizations. As our presenters will discuss on today's webinar partnering with your local Clean Cities Coalition can help you incorporate petroleum reduction strategies and to transportation planning efforts. If you are not already involved in your local coalition I strongly encourage you to contact your local Clean Cities coordinator and get involved with the Coalition.
And you can find those Clean Cities coordinators and who covers your area by going to the web URL: www.cleancities.energy.gov. And you can actually find all the contacts and the coalition person, the coordinator we call them, who covers your area and make contact with that coalition. They can be very helpful in putting together a project and letting you meet with partnerships, and forming partnership activities with your organization.
Finally I'd just like to say that just recently the US Department of Transportation designated a number of alternative fuel corridors. This is under the FAST Act section 1413. And the Federal Highway Administration is managing a process for designating those corridors. And we anticipate there will be a process for future designations to be defined in a follow up register notice which will come late-winter or early-spring 2017. The corridor nominations can be submitted by any state of local official. Many Clean Cities Coalitions were involved in assembling a corridor nomination.
Additionally Clean Cities program staff and labs were involved in assisting Federal Highway Administration with the nomination, evaluation, and selection process. Alternative fuel infrastructure along these corridors may be prioritized for future DOT funding. So they're important to know about and all the information about them is on the DOT website. And there are different classifications of corridors depending on how ready they are for signage.
So finally I'd just like to follow up with some resources for you at www.cleacities.energy.gov where you can locate your local Clean Cities coordinator and learn about their organization and make contact. The Alternative Fuels Data Center is a rich deposit of information and resources and tools for fleets and consumers looking to adopt alternative fuel vehicle and petroleum reduction technologies. www.fueleconomy.gov for people who are in the market for a light duty vehicle that want to know what the fuel economy is going all the way back to 1984. We have all of that data in the www.fueleconomy.gov – one of the most used websites in the federal government with 50 million users a year.
And then we have a Technical Response Service if you have questions and you would like to talk to a real person about alternative fuels and vehicles. We have this Technical Response Service and they're very good at shuttling the question and getting you an answer back within 24 to 48 hours.
Now I'd like to turn things over to Jim from Genesee.
Sandra: Jim we're not able to hear you. You might be on mute.
Jim: I just realized and I'm apologizing to everybody about the technical difficulty. But I was still on mute. I'm sorry for that. Okay I still don't – It says I have control but my slides aren't moving.
Sandra: Go ahead and just say, "Next slide," and I'll move you through.
Jim: All right, go ahead and do the next slide please. So just to give everybody a sense of what I plan to discuss there's a quick Agenda. It gives some background on Genesee Transpiration Council and MPOs in general, when we got our nonattainment designation for air quality purposes. It allowed us to get some CMAQ funding. How we went through project selection, our continued collaboration with the Genesee Region Clean Communities, and our continuing support for alternative fuel vehicles. Please go to the next slide.
For those who don't know every year the county that's got 50,000 or more people has a Metropolitan Planning Organization like Genesee Transportation Council. We cover the 9-county Genesee-Finger Lakes Region centered on Rochester, New York. It's in Western New York between Buffalo and Syracuse. We are responsible for federally-funded transportation policy, planning, and investment decisions. Basically it says a lot but simply but if it's using federal transportation funds it has to go through an MPO process.
We're responsible for creating three major products: a Long Range Transportation Plan that would look a minimum of 20 years out in the future; a Unified Planning Work Program which is our annual work program; and a Transportation Improvement Program which is the capital program of projects that lays out schedule and fund sources for various types of transportation projects. CMAQ funds are one of the fund sources programmed through the TIP. And in general we don't do transportation for transportation sake. As the statement says our mission is: "To maximize the contribution of the transportation system to the social and economic vitality of the region." So that we look for opportunities for where can the transportation system do more? Please advance the slide.
So to give you a sense I mentioned we cover 9 countries centered on Rochester, New York. Our region is nearly 200 municipalities when you look at the counties, towns, and villages. Or 4,700 square miles, about 1.2 million residents. And it's very diverse. We have everything from urban centers with all the issues that go along with that to very rural agricultural areas. And we really run the gamut of transportation needs. You'll notice in the middle portion of this map we have a highlighted area. That's our metropolitan planning Area. And that's the primary focus for what we do. Next slide please.
Then I mentioned our nonattainment area. In April 2004 the EPA did designate the Rochester Metropolitan Statistical Area as being in nonattainment of the air quality standards for ground-level ozone. That MSA at the time included these six counties. So we dropped three from our original map. But it's still about 1.1 million people – so still sizeable. Next slide please.
So I talked about our TIP and our CMAQ funding. And even though we got designated nonattainment in 2004 it took a while to get through the process, to get into the formulas that would distribute the funding. So the funding first became available to us for our federal fiscal year 2008 to 2012 TIP which meant those fund became available in the fall of 2007. It was one of many sources that we dealt with and each of those sources have various eligibility criteria. We were fortunate in that for our first slug we averaged about $12.5 million dollars of CMAQ funds per year because they gave us – New York State distributed a backlog to when we were first in the nonattainment designation. We got a little bit of a push the first cycle. Next slide please.
Look at our project selection and GTC has long been a partner with the Genesee Region Clean Communities program. And we knew at the time GRCC was looking for opportunities to increase the number of alternative fuel vehicles in the region. And we encouraged them to go apply for the CMAQ funds. You'll see we did initially award $2 million of our first 4 year program. And although the program allows up to 80 percent federal share to go towards the projects the way we set it up is that these CMAQ funds would cover 75 percent of the incremental costs of an alternative fuel vehicle relative to a traditional fuel. Or 75 percent of the cost of a conversion – say diesel to compressed natural gas.
And the remaining 5 percent went to GRCC to cover administrative costs. So from a federal standpoint we were still supporting 80 percent to the program – to GRCC. The individual fleet owners were getting 75 percent. You know our goal was to reduce diesel and gasoline consumption. We wanted to remain fuel neutral. We didn't have to specify any particular fuel type for the alternative fuels. We felt the fleet owners would be in the best position to identify what would suit their needs. Next slide please.
You know this funding was new to us. It was new to GRCC. We had a learning curve. Prior to working with GRCC we had only worked with municipal agencies that could be direct recipients of the funding. It was easy. But the not for profit agency wasn't allowed to access those funds directly. So we had to identify a municipal sponsor for them. We worked with them, worked with agencies in the region, and ultimately settled on the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
That worked out pretty well because they had already been working in the Long Island area with the Clean Communities Coalition down there to do a similar program. Unfortunately it took a lot of time to get all these things together. The project took a while to get off the ground. But we eventually got there. Next slide please.
I had mentioned earlier that the CMAQ funds became available in 2008 to 2012. And at that time we were working under the national legislation known as TEA-21. That stands for the Transportation Act for the 21st Century. And as that went along Congress was not able to come to agreement on a successor legislation in a timely manner. And that kept being extended many times. But every time they extended they kept the revenue flat. That lack of revenue growth forced us to cut funding across the board on all our funding programs within the final three years of their program.
The impact to CMAQ was we had to cut about $10 million out of our program. So that initial word to GRCC was whittled down a little bit. We ultimately were able to settle on $1.7 million to cover funding rounds of reaching out to fleet owners. But the other thing that happened was the whole time with air quality there were lawsuits happening. There were challenges against the EPA. Ultimately the air quality standards changed to the point where our region was no longer in nonattainment.
So although we got CMAQ the first go-round we after that no longer had a set allocation of CMAQ funds. The funds were already in place for working with GRCC. We were able to attain those and keep moving forward. So that was fortunate. Next slide please.
And as part of using the CMAQ funds we had to come up with what New York State calls completeness determinations. It was basically assurance to the Federal Highway Administration that the project is expected to result in emissions benefits. And we have to demonstrate that through some analyses. And at the MPL we did this for all the CMAQ projects. It wasn't just the GRCC projects. But this project was a little different. And we needed to come up with some estimates of what we would expect from a benefit. And we worked with GRCC to try to develop what I call reasonable and defensible inputs for the analysis.
If you think about it a heavy duty CNG-powered refuse truck has very different operating characteristics in a denser suburb than they might have in a more rural area – fewer stops and starts in a rural area, longer runs, and different speeds. And if you think about a fleet of sedans used by some salesforce they would have different characteristics than a heavy duty refuge truck. And when you look at it the average speeds and the daily miles traveled really have a big impact on emissions when we're doing a before and after analysis.
So for the first go-round we had to make some assumptions on what kinds of vehicles we would end up funding. GRCC's long experience with various fleet owners helped us come up with some estimates of what we might see. Next slide please.
So once we had the funding prepared the GRCC worked with the fleet owners to try to identify specific projects to use these funds. And as I mentioned it took longer. The GRCC does have private and public fleet operators as part of their organization. They issue the RPF to their members and then try to identify other interested fleet owners. In 2008 they were able to select some projects to move forward. This first go-round as it shows here 65 vehicles over 6 fleet owners. Four of those fleets were private fleets.
So once we had that in place GRCC worked towards helping the fleet owners acquire the vehicles, going through the necessary confirmation that they had taken delivery, et cetera. But again because it took longer than we expected we were at GTC asked to redo the emissions analysis because it would be several years later that the benefit would come into play. But this time we knew the fleets that were being awarded. So we were able to analyze each fleet individually and then consolidate those values to get accumulative impact of the project. Next slide please.
One of the snags we ran into was that while we were going through this process there was a new interpretation from the Federal Highway Administration that the Buy America provisions for steel content should apply to vehicles. Prior to that it had been primarily bridges. So it was just another hurdle for GRCC and us to work together move forward. They worked on compiling the documentation for the Buy America compliance. But at the same time we worked towards obtaining a waiver for those provisions. And there's a process in place and the Federal Highway Administration has set it up so on a quarterly basis they're seeking waivers under this program that have to go through the Federal Register and go through a process.
We were successful in that process that basically waived the requirement for a high level of steel content being American steel. If you think about particularly some of the sedans that are on the market: Toyota Prius, Honda Insight. You're not going to get a high level of steel content especially several years ago of American. One thing that is a challenge with the Buy America; even if you get the waiver for the steel content it's really important to follow the other provisions that still require that the vehicles be assembled in the United States or that conversions take place in the United States.
If you take nothing else away from today understand that those would be applicable to anything you do. We had one fleet owner who was pursuing a particular heavy duty vehicle. And all the major components: the chassis, the powertrain, the body were all made in America. And the pieces were sent to Mexico for assembly. And because the final assembly was taking place in Mexico the CMAQ funds could not be used. Ultimately the fleet operator switched to a different model of vehicle – a comparable model – and was able to get through it. But that was one thing that we weren't prepared for when we started. Next slide please.
So I did talk about earlier that we have funding for two rounds. And what we tried to do was take any of the lessons learned from round one and incorporate them into a second round. We worked with GRCC on getting that information together. We had a better idea of what information we would need to do the analysis so we could ask for that upfront as part of the proposals. And we were also able to give forewarning to the fleet owners that Buy America provisions were going to come into play. And that really assembly in America was key or conversions in America was key.
But they knew this going in. And you know from soliciting projects in the spring of 2016 to be able to award them in the fall of 2016 – a much quicker process – we were able to get a larger set of vehicles and a more broad distribution of fleet owners – as you could see 90 vehicles. Thirteen fleet owners – private, public, school districts with school buses, a college. So it really helped diversify with their lessons learned. Next slide please.
So continuing the support for alternative fueled vehicles I mentioned earlier our long range plan – we have to look out at least 20 years. And we have a specific recommendation about supporting alternative vehicles. And within the discussion under that recommendation we specifically mention our partnership with GRCC. And so we're trying to move forward. Even though we don't have a dedicated stream of CMAQ funds for our region we continue to look for opportunities. In August 2016 Governor Cuomo announced the availability of CMAQ funds for upstate New York.
So we worked with GRCC where we could get some information together. They have applied for the funds to try to do another one or two rounds of vehicle fleet conversions. And we're waiting on word if they get awarded funds or not. If they do we will do the analysis and work with them to move the projects forward. And with that – next slide – that concludes my presentation. I think we said we were going to hold the questions until the end.
Sandra: Thank you very much Jim. Jeff you can kick things off.
Jeff: Can you hear me?
Jeff: All right I'm going to see if I can control it real quick. Let's see if we get a movement here. No I don't seem to be getting any movement on my end. So does someone have the ability to –?
Sandra: Yeah go ahead and say next slide when you're ready.
Jeff: Okay we're good. I didn't spend a lot of time on our slides with – I don't need to yet. You can go back to the beginning. Or maybe that was me. I didn't spend a lot of time on what an NPO is because Jim sort of talked about those three things and many of you are probably aware of what NPOs do. However for us by way of backdrop some of the things to just show the differences – Jim talks about being a nonattainment area.
He's referencing funding from a competitive standpoint I think in terms of applying for those CMAQ funds and those sorts of things. Here in the state of Florida we're actually in a nonattainment – We are in an attainment maintenance area. And when we were nonattainment we actually never received CMAQ funds ironically. And now that we are not we are receiving funds. And that's simply based on the fact that our state DOT has elected now to distribute those funds throughout the state from a formula perspective.
Another piece of backdrop related to our TOP from a funding standpoint – you saw references to as much as $12.5 million on an annual basis. The state of Florida as a whole only receives about $13 million statewide in CMAQ funds. So the numbers are much smaller in scale. But what we hope to present here is the idea however that if sort of properly leveraged you have the ability even with limited CMAQ funds to really advance what's happening within your region. Next slide.
So for us we're Northeast Florida just as a geographic standpoint. The picture itself is actually referencing our coalition. But the background for our TPO – we are four counties, much fewer municipalities. We have the benefit of our largest county – Duval – being 65 percent of our boundary is a consolidated city and county government since 1968. So we don't have a lot of municipalities to deal with. We are about 3,000 square miles and 1.4 million in population. Next slide.
So this is our coalition itself. This started back in 2009. Sort of the impetus behind the creation of our interest in hosting an all fuels coalition came from a local think tank here in Northeast Florida. This group does annual studies looking at the community. And at the time they had looked at the environmental sector and identified an interest in moving forward with alternative fuel. It wasn't really a reference to the Department of Energy or anything like that, just the notion to do it.
We had had some history in other sectors like ITS – Intelligent Transportation Systems – with the creation of coalitions bring entities together. And so we were approached by the members of this local think tank and our local utility entities about our interest in hosting this coalition. We thought it was an opportunity that we wanted to take advantage of. So we took on the task and expanded as you can see here. It doesn't mirror our TPO boundary. We actually have two additional counties. So its background is obviously larger in population and number of counties.
We do receive on an annual basis about $1.5 million in CMAQ funds. We have historically invested those funds in ITS efforts within our region. But over the last few years now that we've been able to advance our coalition efforts we started to identify projects and gained board support for investing our CMAQ funds in leveraging all fuel type initiatives. Next slide.
So why are we promoting it? As a public entity our position frankly has been – You know the market as a whole has chosen Northeast Florida. Right now in terms of alternative fuels, whether it's natural gas, electric, propane, or any of the above – particularly in a natural gas sector. And so we think we were given an opportunity to look at using our funds to help leverage and grow that as an economic strategy within Northeast Florida. So we've had significant partnerships with our chamber and the local business communities.
While our focus frankly has not been openly environmental our conversations around here have been much more about the business benefit of alternative fuels. This has connected better with the local business community and local fleets. And really the environmental benefits then have been in addition to. And so it's really created the ability to connect much better between us as a public entity and the private sector as we moved it forward. The coalition itself has really elevated our own visibility within the region and really recognized us at this point as the resource for alternative fuel initiatives in Northeast Florida. Next slide.
So balancing that interest with our DOT as a statewide statement if you will I wouldn't necessarily suggest that DOT as a whole has bought into the alternative fuel movement if you will. But the state itself is broken up into seven districts. And we have the benefit of a district that believes in what we do. Those seven DOT districts actually are the recipient of the CMAQ funds. And those districts for the most part have the leeway to do what they want with those CMAQ funds. Which every other district in Florida has typically been operational improvement at intersections and that sort of thing.
We have gained the value through our partnerships with our DOT district to basically have full control over those CMAQ funds and be able to dictate where they go. And our district then fulfills that. So when you also saw some of the challenges that Jim was mentioning with Buy America and other things our district has been at the forefront in helping us mitigate a lot of those challenges along with our own staff here. So it's been a very successful partnership that frankly we wouldn't be able to do what we've done so far. Next slide.
So our process for us –wouldn't suggest that it's an application process or anything like that. Our TPO board – we are 17 members. They are elected and/or transportation authority-related entities that make the decisions at our table. So as staff and as part of our Clean Fuels Initiative we either solicit projects or through our master plan development we identify projects that we think make some sense. These are projects that already have funding going to them. So our opportunities with CMAQ are able to leverage and advance that.
So we're able to sort of identify those ones we want to fund and then garner support from our TPO board to make that happen. So it's not an overly cumbersome or complicated effort particularly since we are if you will the direct recipient and implementer of the projects. Next slide.
So I mentioned the leveraging aspect to that. Because of the limited amount of funds we've wanted to make sure that we are supplementing investment that's already going towards a particular project, sort of closing the deal if you will on a thought or initiative that's moving forward. If we were to focus our $1.5 per year on trying to do a complete project to be honest we probably wouldn't get very far. So we really have tremendous success from a leveraging standpoint. Next slide.
I'll sort of highlight now those projects we've seen at this point. And it sort of runs the gamut even in the last few years. As a whole this will represent the $5 million that I mentioned before that we've been able to invest over the last few years. Our most successful initial project was with one of our member counties in St. Johns County. We basically provided the CMAQ funding again to cover the offset. So they were looking to purchase and replace 108 vehicles as part of their overall fleet. What we essentially did was cover the difference of what a typical diesel vehicle would've cost or petroleum based vehicle would cost in order to cover to create the opportunity for CNG.
What this did – This was partnering with a strategy on their part to accelerate five years of vehicle replacement. So it didn't come without a heavy commitment on their part. They actually accelerated five years' worth of investment to convert sufficient number of vehicles along with our funding that then allowed private investor to come in and build the station for them. One of the caveats that we've made on all of our funding investment however is leveraging every piece of infrastructure that goes in. So we don't want to be part of a fleet conversion or station construction if there isn't a public component associated with it.
And so even in this instance while there will be fueling opportunity on one side of the station for the fleet there is a public side that's going to allow smaller fleets to convert that otherwise couldn't. We've also been able to leverage fleets that are passing through the region from other parts of the state to be able to consume this fuel here and increase the profit opportunities. This has also lent itself to for instance with St. Johns County while they have five years of guaranteed price for their purchasing if there is sufficient revenue generated on the public side between the vendor and the facility St. Johns County has the ability to renegotiate that price to even lower it further. Next slide.
This component here – this is our transit entity – JTA – the Jacksonville Transportation Authority. This is a program where they're moving towards roughly 75 transit vehicles going to compressed natural gas. This was a scenario again where JTA was going to invest and construct a station in the back of their property for use by buses only. What we did in this instance was contribute $2.75 million to the JTA in return for the notion that there would be a public component to it. So what you actually see in this particular image – that is what our funding purchased. The other side of the fence still remains the component for the transit vehicles.
So this has now lent itself for other entities to come in and begin to fuel. And it created a profit opportunity for the vendor that's here. So once again JTA is in a scenario where they can revisit their price contacts as well depending on the amount of revenue that's generated from this piece. This is not CMAQ in this particular case. This is statewide funding that is available to the regions call TRIP – Transportation Regional Incentive Program. This is the only alternative fuel funded TRIP project in the entire state of Florida. Once again this speaks to our district's support for our initiative to the point where they are convinced that our outcomes are positive and they're willing to put faith in these types of investments for us. Next slide.
So we talk about leveraging. This is a case where the City of Jacksonville – predominantly their transportation service is all third-party. However they do own about 15 trucks. The reality is of converting 15 trucks does not create the consumption load for a vendor to build them a station. So we have instead created the opportunity by way of funding CNG in their vehicles. And the station I showed you in the slide before is the station that will be utilized by those trucks for fueling purposes. So it sort of connects the dots like we mentioned in terms of leveraging the opportunities that exist. Otherwise those trucks would've never been converted because they would never have had a fueling opportunity. Next slide.
We're also partnering in the private sector: Florida East Coast Railway. This is a Florida only based rail network – 50 locomotives running between Jacksonville and Miami in the state of Florida up and down the east coast on a 116 mile corridor. They are frankly a $50 million dollar commitment to 25 locomotives to go solely on liquid natural gas. So for us how do we fit in a $50 million dollar investment? And why does the FEC have any interest in us? We found a way. They had to as part of the Federal Rail Administration to do a four locomotive pilot project to prove a new concept for a tender vehicle.
Basically the fueling car associated with it, a new design, and that sort of thing. What we wanted to do as a region in Northeast Florida was not have that pilot happen in South Florida, leverage opportunities for fueling that exist in Northeast Florida. And so what we stepped to the plate to do was say if you've got to do four locomotives on the pilot we will buy one kit of those four locomotives. And in return we'd like to see all of that pilot effort happen here in Northeast Florida. And that's what's happened actually.
The General Electric staff and support and maintenance crews for this project are all housed here now in Jacksonville, Florida. And all four of those locomotives solely run between here and New Smyrna Beach and back as part of this pilot project. And it's really leveraged a much greater initiative that's happening here in Northeast Florida with the construction of three multi $100 million dollar LNG liquefaction plants and created an opportunity for us to encourage conversations between FEC and those entities for FEC to be an anchor fueling consumer for those facilities.
Each one of these locomotives displaces over 325,000 gallons of petroleum on an annual basis. As a whole, FEC consumes 10 million gallons a year, so there's a lot of opportunity for us. And so this was a very small investment on a relative scale with a huge ROI for us long term in the region. Next slide.
We've also gotten into the electric vehicle charging station arena, partnering with one of our local utilities JEA. It covers a large portion of our four county area. We provided CMAQ funding to them for the idea of deploying a network of EV chargers. Prior to this there were about four or five stations within the region. Most of them were privately owned and frankly cost-prohibitive the way they were structured in order to encourage EV usage. So what we were able to do is to develop and install a network of stations that we branded our own network called ChargeWell.
We've also contractually obligated the hosts of these. So whether it's a restaurant, a movie theater, or any of the above, for two years they have only the ability to charge what is of utility kilowatt hour charge by the JEA, so no more than $.17 per kilowatt hour. So there are no plugin fees or any kind of additional fees that they can charge in return for us purchasing and installing these units. What it has done is just accelerated EV vehicle growth from a percentage standpoint significantly over the last year. We've seen huge increases in supplies at dealerships.
We've partnered with dealers now in drive and rides and that sort of things. And so what we've done now is we're adding additional funding to expand beyond the boundary. This is a project that we did with level 2 chargers. But it's also created a partnership with Nissan and Tesla as far as a whole network of superchargers that are going in now because we've shown to be a community alive and well as far as EV in the future. Next slide.
So that's the network that we've currently put out over the last 12 months or so. We've got $450,000.00 I've said. We're looking now to expand into those gray areas in Nassau, Clay, and St. Johns around that Duval County boundary. So we may go from about five to as many as 75 within a 24 month period. The network continues to grow. Next slide.
So I've mentioned the backdrop of the liquid natural gas movement. This is where I said the market has chosen Northeast Florida to become what we believe the Southeastern hub for alt-fuels in the United States. That ship you are looking at right there is the first container ship in the world running solely on liquid natural gas. And it's calling on our port here at JAXPORT. There is a second one of those that's also operating currently at the port. So it is the first two in the world. The result of that, as I mentioned, has two different vendors constructing three LNG liquefaction plants.
One is going in solely to fuel these ships. Another is going in for the purposes of fueling Crowley who is construction two ships as we speak that will call on JAXPORT. And the third facility will product LNG for exportation to the Caribbean. This has created just a huge groundswell. It's why it's created partnerships with the chamber now as an economic development strategy for Northeast Florida, particularly in freight and logistics. And so what we think is you know our efforts have been a complement to that. And it's helped leverage it.
What we've heard from these large companies who are coming in to build these LNG facilities is most communities that they walk into to look to build these kinds of things are not educated yet on natural gas and that sort of thing. And so you have the concerns from safety and that sort of things that exist, the fear of natural gas, if you will. They have said on more than one occasion that when they stepped foot in this community and started meeting with the chamber and others that it was very clear that Northeast Florida was already well-aware of what this industry could do, its risks associated with it, or the lack thereof frankly, and have said that it's predominantly equated to our coalition's efforts and the ability to educate the region through initiatives and other things. Next slide.
So when we talk about our $5 million investment at this point our board is very much about performance measures and ROI. So we were tasked with looking at what the $5 million has done at this point. And so we've been able to at least present the notion that our return on investment for that $5 million is about 165 percent. And that can be from the different standpoints that you see referenced there, whether its emissions, petroleum displacement, avoided fuel expenditures and so forth. So it is something that we expect to continue to get support from the board moving forward. Next slide.
So in summary for us we are going to continue the coalition and do what we do as the coalition, again with all due respect to the DOE with or without designation because we think that the initiative itself was worthy of moving forward. But that being said having received our designation last year what we feel like is it has validated what we've been doing. We modeled after DOE so we felt very comfortable that the designation would come. But I would say to you any of you contemplating it you can move forward with an initiative that's good for your area regardless.
What we've seen however is the DOE has lent support, now a little bit of funding as part of the designation, and created sort of that backdrop for us to follow though so that we knew the path we were going down was the path to success. So I do think that without the DOE and the Clean Cities Initiative we would have been winging it a little bit more. So they did set up the foundation for us to move forward and we feel very validated after we were able to receive the designation. We have a strong strategic plan that the coalition has put together to move those investments forward.
And I think that what this whole thing has done for us on two fronts – one from a visibility aspect in connecting us with the business community where we have not otherwise been connected. Mostly for us it's been about public investment on roads and so forth. So this has really created that type of connection which at the end of the day has resulted in value in other areas that we focus in because now you have the business community supporting transportation priorities throughout the region because they're more aware of it.
I will tell you as an MPO it has also benefitted in our own relationships investing and investment by our board members. Our challenges as TPO in general are if we're just doing roads we all know a road is 12 to 15 years in many cases for the construction. If you're a board of elected officials those projects never happen on their watch. They are in and out of their job as an elected official before that thing ever happens. And so over the years, having done this for 25 the engagement of those members can be a challenge. So when we look in the area of alt-fuels where we can turn something around quicker, when we look in the area of technology and other sectors we're able to create shorter timelines on investment and return on investment for them.
It creates a better engagement by those board members. And then the secondary benefit to that is better engagement in the broader requirements of an MPO. And that's on our own personal perspective. But that's what we have seen happen is that they are far more interested and frankly lobbying now to be members of our board whereas before they were seen as an assignment from their various county commissions. So I think on many levels it's really been a benefit to us and not just solely from an alt-fuels perspective. I think that's it. Next slide.
That is it so any questions or however you all are handling the Q&A.
Sandra: Thank you Jeff. I want to thank Jeff for his thorough presentation. It's really great to see what you have going on there in Florida, and to Jim as well for his presentation. And thank you to Linda for the introductions. As a reminder to all of our participants today if you have a question you can type it into the Questions box in your control panel. We do have a few that came in online. I'm going to go ahead and get started with these but know that you can still input a question.
And this one came up – There were a few that came up during Jim's – during your presentation. So these are likely directed at you. I'm going to start with this first one here. What is the name of the online emissions tool used that you referenced in your presentation?
Jim: That was some lookup tables that the New York State Department of Transportation had where it can plug in certain values and get outputs from the mobile six. They have since moved on to a tool that utilizes a CMAQ – or I'm sorry a Microsoft Access interface that interacts with that – something called CMAQ Track. It really was designed to work with the New York state data.
Sandra: Okay, good thank you. And the next question – again this one came up during your presentation Jim. Do the private fleets have to buy their vehicles outright, i.e. through reimbursement? Or does the award go to the dealer?
Jim: No. The fleet owners buy the vehicles and the fleet owners are getting the reimbursement.
Sandra: Okay, thank you. The next question I have here: Does CMAQ money have to flow to the MPOs of the state? Or is it up to each state where to distribute the funds?
Jim: It really is up to –
Jeff: Go ahead Jim.
Jim: It really is up to the states how the feds do it as they allocate funds to the state. And then the state gets to decide. The exception I think is when there is not a _____ there has to be a certain amount spent in those areas. But like I said this past – late in the summer – New York State announced some additional funds they were going to make available statewide from that flexibility that they have.
Sandra: Okay. And Jeff did you have something to add?
Jeff: I was pretty much – From our state yeah it's distributed by way of to the districts – so those seven districts. And then there's a level of freedom to each of the districts to sort of invest as they see it within the eligible categories. So like I mentioned before for us our district has granted the flexibility to us as the MPO to allocate it. I can't say that that exists actually with the other six districts.
Sandra: Okay. Well thank you both. Another question that came in here: in the Omaha, Nebraska region the MPO has requested CMAQ funds for installation of electric fueling stations. So Nebraska FHWA division has indicated that these fueling stations cannot compete with private electric fueling stations. Was this an issue for North Florida TPO? And if so how was this conflict avoided? Any advice?
Jeff: Yeah from a state statute standpoint in Florida with the Public Service Commission yeah they then become a private seller of electricity. So the way to account for that is how we did contractually. So they are given the opportunity to charge whatever the kilowatt hour charge is for the utility within the boundary that they're selling it. Outside of that it hasn't been an issue that the statutes in Florida are going to permit that opportunity for them to be a – They're essentially becoming a utility provider if you will as one restaurant.
Jim: And I'd just like to add to that I think that comes into play. But you probably can also potentially demonstrate that there is not private sector competition because they're not looking to get into that market. You know say oh chicken and egg – what comes first? We've deployed electric vehicle charging stations in conjunction with our major city and putting them in parking garages and the like. But you know again if the private sector wanted to do it they'd be doing it already.
Jeff: Yeah I would say the bigger challenge that's happened just recently in the last several months has been an interpretation at the federal level on what installation versus construction on an EV station. When we did this first deployment of 25 we did it and we were able to do it frankly quite smoothly as it related to putting them whether on public or private property. I do want to bring that to your attention because depending on how your own regional offices when FHWA might interpret – our most recent interpretation now as a result of the federal interpretation has been these are construction projects.
And that has put us in a different arena for this next round of rollout that has created quite a bit more challenges for deployment. So I'm not saying any of you will be confronted with it but I would just say keep that in the back of your mind that an interpretation now as being a construction project has really changed the dynamics for our ability on this next round. We have found a path to be able to do it but it's not as easy as we did the first time.
Sandra: Okay. Thank you both for that information. So this is a question for both of you – for both Jim and Jeff. Could you both please address the process and issues you had with one, Buy America compliance; two, competitive procurement; and three, NEPA reviews?
Jim: This is Jim. Competitive procurement – we didn't run into an issue with that. GRCC was the project sponsor. So they came to us and they were awarded the funds. And then what they did was open it up to any fleet operators to submit proposals to take advantage of this program. And that went through an evaluation process there. There were some – I guess the evaluation was interesting because at one point somebody tried to say, "Well I can get a Tesla and that's comparable to a Chevy Impala. So I should get the incremental on that." And we shut that down you know?
So for round two we actually have the incremental can't be more than X percent of the base vehicle. But for the most part they went through an evaluation process and said, "Here are the criteria we're going to use to judge the project." And we'll secure them. NEPA never even came into play. I would think this would fall under a categorical exclusion. We never even looked at NEPA – Essentially it's a small distributing project and the benefits are all positive. This was one project from a CMAQ standpoint where I can recall when we first started I reached out to a counterpart that was involved with a Long Island project.
For a CMAQ project the alternative fuel vehicles are something that you can have a high degree of confidence that there's an emissions benefit. The pollutants – the emissions of the different fuel types demonstrate absolutely there's a benefit to be had. Some of the other eligible type projects it's hard to say well is this a transportation benefit? Is it a recreation benefit? What's the benefit? Is it directly tied to the CMAQ funds? So in this case there's a strong connection between the CMAQ funds and the actual emissions benefits.
Jeff: Yeah we haven't had any – NEPA hasn't come up in any of the scenarios. Buy America we did have some challenges with that on some of the equipment that was being purchased. But eventually that was able to be mitigated. On the procurement side for us this is not like a program if you will where projects of different alt-fuel ideas are being proposed to us for consideration. For us like I said we are drawing from a master plan and/or looking at efforts that are already out there, so the only element from procurement, for instance in St. Johns County when we provided those funds to their fleet.
All we had to do was make sure that their own procurement of the vehicles and stuff are meeting the state and federal standards for providing those vehicles. We personally didn't create a procurement standpoint. The only time we've been confronted with that is on the EV charging station because we were rolling out 25 units and we would be procuring professional services for installation. So we did have a process along with JEA for proposals to come in to bid on what it would cost and so forth to install the 25. That's the only time we've hit any kind of a procurement component.
Jim: And I realized I didn't answer the Buy America question. Sorry for that. That did pop up during our first round part way through the process. But as I mentioned during my presentation we worked with New York State and our FHWA division office where they put in a process. And quite frankly the impression I've got is sort of this process being led by FHWA in the headquarters office. On a quarterly basis they were looking for the Buy America waivers. That was simply we submit: this is the number of vehicles, here are the types of vehicles, and this is the value we expect.
It goes through a federal register process and we've been granted the waivers every time. The key provision of that becomes the assembly in America. And that was one factor that you know now that we're aware of it we can work with the fleet owners and the dealers and distributers that they're working with to ensure that the vehicle models, particularly like the heavy duty trucks, Mack or International or whoever. Make sure that particular model is assembled in America. On the conversions we might get a Roche conversion kit that's big in Germany but the work is done at a local mechanic. So the conversion is occurring in the United States.
And that has been satisfactory to our FHWA division office. We just provide some documentation and assurances that the assembly is occurring here.
Sandra: Great, thank you both. Jim can you talk a little bit more about the types of vehicles and fleets that you worked with?
Jim: Did you say Jim?
Jeff: I'm sorry. I thought you said Jeff.
Sandra: Jim. Sorry Jeff – Jim.
Jim: We had some refuge companies like Waste Management would be well-known. The others I think are more regional operations. But some of their heavy duty waste, refuge trucks. We had county – you know for their airport doing the shuttles for the long term parking, changing on the shuttle buses. We had a fleet operator that – Actually their business is going into residential and commercial businesses and doing energy efficiency type projects. But they put their sales fleet in – I'm trying to remember if they used Prius or – Well an alternative fuel vehicle. I can't remember the vehicle type they used.
This latest round is including CNG for school buses. That is becoming more and more used in our area. I think even with cold weather they might actually get some better performance about of the CNG than the diesels with the overnight cold. We had some municipal – Like the county – They call it Department of Environmental Services which they're facilities management folks converting some of their pickup trucks to propane. Those are the types of things. The medium duty, some heavy duty, and some sedans.
Sandra: Okay thank you. I had a question here. Probably either of you or both could answer. What was your first step in securing CMAQ funding?
Jim: Well for us it was easy. New York State said here's how much you're getting in your region. And as part of your project solicitation identify projects that could use these funds. As part of our process every few years to update our capital program we're allocated – it's called planning targets – a certain amount in each funding category that has its various eligibility. So we're dealing with roads, bridges, transit buses, bike trails, and sidewalks. We really run the gamut. So when we had the CMAQ funds we said okay we're going to solicit CMAQ projects.
And we got – in addition to the alternative fuels – we did things like transit bus replacements to cleaner diesel engines. We had bike trail – bike and pedestrian facilities. We had electric vehicle charging stations through another project sponsor. We had an alternative fuel fueling station that the county and city did together. We even did roundabouts for traffic flow improvements. You know we were fortunate we had a substantial amount of money to work with that first go-round.
For our own project solicitation and selection process that is long established for all types of transportation projects CMAQ was just one more source we had available and were able to target those types of projects.
Jeff: Yeah for us and CMAQ like I mentioned is formula to each of the districts and the state. I think the reason we now have the opportunity to use CMAQ to invest in all fuels was – And it was not intended. It's more of a benefit that just happened. When we originally were working with our district to use CMAQ funds as I mentioned before it was mostly in the sector for ITS: so cameras, _____, signal controllers, and that sort of thing. And it was an initiative that the district was really moving forward in the area of technology.
So when we were proposing projects for CMAQ for that it sort of made them comfortable with us then programming CMAQ dollars. And consequently once she sort of garnered that authority then it's hard to take it away. And so now we sort of have control of the CMAQ funding. And consequently as we shifted that to all fuels efforts like I said the district has just remained supportive of us doing it. So ours was kind of lucky more than reality in terms of a process to garner it.
Jim: Yeah and something that I thought about – I'm not sure what the audience background is out there. But from our perspective at GTC we don't use any of the CMAQ funds for anything we do. We are just the agency that was programming the funds. And all the work we did as a staff to support the analysis was all done out of our annual work program – our planning funds. We did not use any CMAQ funds for us at all. It went to project implementation.
Jeff: Yeah our CMAQ – we use a portion of it. And I should've mentioned this. For those out there who are in Clean Cities Coalitions because I think our model is different. Most of these Clean Cities Coalitions are standalones if you will with member assessments that are helping support their efforts and supporting their coordinator. By way of us using planning funds and/or CMAQ dollars we're able to provide the staff support funding and staff internally to support the coalition and consequentially members are not having to be assessed. And the security of the coordinator remains because it's a TPO staff member, and Wanda Forrest and Marci Larson providing that support.
It's a little different model but we're able to utilize about $100,000.00 of our CMAQ funds on an annual basis to cover that overheard. But it has created much more sustainability in terms of the coalition going forward. And it's really allowed membership to grow because they're not frankly being required to invest funding in it.
Sandra: Great, thank you Jeff. So two more questions here. Jeff, could you expand upon your partnerships with the dealerships?
Jeff: Yeah what's happened on that – And a lot of that has to do with JEA, the utility entity 'cause there's also a lot of effort for them in workplace charging and some other initiatives. Again it goes back to the fact that our participation in our chamber settings and the partnerships on the private sector has allowed our visibility to grow. So in those sectors every one of the dealerships in Northeast Florida is almost by default members of the chamber. And they are participating in various meetings whether it's an energy committee or transportation committee in those settings.
And so it's a lot more transparent around here in terms of information sharing. And that has resulted in us garnering a connection between the dealers that maybe otherwise wouldn't have been there. So when we started proposing this notion of rolling out these charging stations they almost came to us in the JEA as much as we didn't really have to seek them out. 'Cause they know that this model: you build it and they will come concept. And so they stepped up quickly and have been regular participants in all of our events and drive and ride opportunities and the like because they know it's an opportunity for their own growth in market.
So that's how it's really worked for us. And now it's simply a phone call to the individuals at these dealers. And they're ready to participate.
Sandra: Thank you Jeff. The last question here is for Jim. Jim, in New York did you consider using a voucher program model rather than an RFP grant project?
Jim: Can you repeat that?
Sandra: Did you consider using a voucher program model rather than RFP grant projects?
Jim: No we didn't. It basically came down to when the Clean Communities Coalition approached us that was the approach they said we want to use. And it was suitable to us. I think looking at getting into voucher programs you still have to have somebody to handle the money. That wasn't anything we were in a position to do. And you've got to preclear vendors and the like. This approach allowed – put the onus on the fleet owner to gather the appropriate information. And there was a lot of handholding with GRCC. When we got hit with the Buy America stuff and some of the emission – the engine standards – we went looking to California, a resources board certification.
We looked for different documentation. And then – Sorry I lost my train of thought. Then once the fleet operator gets the vehicle they call the GRCC coordinator and he goes out and he verifies that they've actually taken delivery of the vehicle and notes the VIN and takes pictures and the like and has all that documentation to prove. Not just like, "Hey yeah we've got a vehicle." They physically took delivery of it. And all that occurs before they get reimbursed. So the fleet owner has to front the money and they're made aware of that. Everything is upfront. From a business decision standpoint it still has to make sense for them. And then they recoup after the fact.
Sandra: Okay great. Well that is our set of questions. Thank you both to Jim and Jeff for the information and the wonderful presentations. I appreciate you taking the time to be here with all of us today. Linda, Margaret, Mike, Jeff, or Jim do you have any final thoughts or anything else you wanted to add before I go ahead and wrap up today's webinar?
Jeff: The only comment I want to make if I could is you know I would hope at least from this that it gives some hope to some 'cause I would think Jim has shown you a very expansive deployment and project and expressed to you the processes and the challenges that he's gone through. But also with funding that is at levels that are more appealing. I would say to you though I would hope that maybe you see from our examples that there's no pot too small. So if some of you are MPOs or other coalitions out there there is the opportunity to use very limited resources and still leverage the opportunity.
And I would hope that you wouldn't discount it because it isn't perceived to be a significant amount of money that might come to you. If you build the proper partnerships and develop the coalition in the right way as we've shown the smallest amount of money can still do a lot of things. So that would kind of be what I'd leave you with. We didn't think what we did could happen. And it did. So I just think that the opportunity is there.
Jim: And I think what I would add is keep an open mind. And do your best to get anybody else involved in the process to have an open mind. You know Jeff talked about that was the only region in Florida that was doing the alternative fuel because they had some people at the region who were open minded. A lot of places will use the CMAQ funds for intersection improvements or different operations on the road and may not even have thought about the impact that an alternative fuels vehicle can have for a relatively low cost. And you know sometimes people may not even be aware that that's an eligible activity.
But I think keeping an open mind, having those conversations with your MPO or whoever is going to be making CMAQ funds available in your area. Sometimes it may not be that local MPO. It might be a state DOT because they have some flexibility. But just share the examples that you're picking up from around the other parts of the country. The open mind I think is the key. We battled a lot of hurdles along the way: the learning curve, the analysis that had to get done, the Buy America. But we didn't give up. We just said, "You know what? This is still a good project. We'd like to keep working for it."
Yes it's delayed. The money is still there. We'll keep working together. And that's really what it came down to. We had a Clean Communities coordinator that wanted to move this project forward. He had a supportive board that wanted to move this forward. He had fleet operators that were willing to wait and go through their trials and tribulations with us and a commitment at the MPO to keep moving this forward and so the analysis that it took to get the money spent in our region. Because if it wasn't spent in our region it was going to be spent somewhere else and we wouldn't have the emissions benefit.
Sandra: I'd like to echo Linda's comments from the beginning of the webinar and encourage everyone who is not already involved with their local Clean Cities Coalition to reach out to your local coordinator and get involved. Jim and Jeff have both shared great examples of how working with your Clean Cities Coalition engages you with a network of public and private stakeholders that can help build successful projects and form some really great ways of spending CMAQ money for air quality improvement projects.
Jim: Yeah the partnership is key. I mean in fact our Clean Communities is having their annual meeting right now. They might be wrapping up. And one of my staff members has been at that meeting. It is a partnership. And you get exposed to expertise and knowledge that you wouldn't necessarily otherwise have. You know the energy sector is very different from the transportation sector. But our coordinator previously had worked in fleet operations for municipality. So he understands it and he's able to talk to people. He does a great job for us. Reaching out to your coordinator is probably the first step to a long relationship.
Sandra: Good point. Thank you all and to connect with your local Clean Cities coordinator you can search for one near you on our Clean Cities website at: www.cleancities.energy.gov. Linda had noted that website earlier. So as noted at the beginning we have recorded today's webinar and it will be available on the Clean Cities website. We'll be archiving it there within the next seven to ten days. On our news and event section you can find the previous webinars noted on there – this one and others that might be of interest.
So thank you all for participating with us today and don't hesitate to reach out to any of us if you have any additional questions. I hope you have a wonderful week. This concludes today's webinar.
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