Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program
The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) is one of the largest sources of funding available for alternative fuel projects. It has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in investments in alternative fuel projects since its inception in 1991. The CMAQ program is continued in MAP-21 (P.L. 112-141), the newly reauthorized transportation bill, to provide a flexible funding source for state and local governments for transportation projects and programs that will help meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act.
The program was designed to realign the focus of transportation planning toward a more inclusive, environmentally-sensitive, and multimodal approach to addressing transportation problems. Grants from this program can pay for alternative fuel projects, including the incremental cost of purchasing NGVs and the construction of natural gas refueling projects. Funding is allowed for private and public partnerships, but 20 percent of all projects must be locally or regionally funded.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) administers the CMAQ program. Funds are allocated to a state’s Department of Transportation for further allocation to regional or local metropolitan planning organizations.
FHA generally coordinates projects with these local metropolitan planning organizations or the state transportation departments. The formula for distributing funds considers an area’s population by county and the severity of its ozone and carbon monoxide problems within the nonattainment or maintenance area, with greater weight given to areas that are both carbon monoxide and ozone nonattainment or maintenance areas. Metropolitan planning organizations must give priority when distributing funds to cost-effective emission reduction and congestion mitigation activities that provide air quality benefits.
Federal Transit Authority Grants
The Federal Transit Authority (FTA) provides grants to help fund local and regional public transit systems. FTA helps communities support public transportation by issuing grants to eligible recipients for planning, vehicle purchases, facility construction, and operations. Eligible recipients must be public bodies such as states, cities, towns, regional governments, and transit authorities with the legal authority to receive and dispense federal funds.
In 2012, Congress passed the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) (P.L. 112–141), which will provide over $105 billion of funding for surface transportation programs for FY 2013 and FY 2014. MAP-21 will extend various programs that have been a major source of financial assistance to transit systems wanting to upgrade their aging fleets with new natural gas vehicles.
Clean Cities Program
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Clean Cities Program is a part of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Program and is designed to accelerate the use of alternative fueled vehicles throughout the country. The program strives to advance the nation’s energy security by supporting local decisions to adopt practices that reduce petroleum consumption. Clean Cities grants have expanded the use of natural gas vehicles in a variety of applications, such as school buses, transit buses, airport vehicles, taxis, and delivery fleets. Grants have also been used to build fueling infrastructure, with a focus on locations that provide public access, since this provides the opportunity to further increase the number of vehicles using natural gas.
The program works through a network of nearly 100 volunteer coalitions headed by Clean Cities Coordinators that develop public-private partnerships. Clean Cities projects are supported by DOE’s State Energy Program Special Projects, known as SEPs. Sta tes apply for these grants, which are highly competitive and highly leveraged.
The Department of Energy funded 25 different projects for alternative fuel, infrastructure and advanced technology vehicle, and 19 of these 25 projects include NGVS. The Federal Transit Administration also awarded about $100 million in funding for more cities to switch to natural gas buses. Together these programs will result in:
- 3,000 new natural gas vehicles, including 600 heavy duty trucks that will be powered with liquefied natural gas, or LNG.
- 140 new fueling stations, including 10 that will fuel heavy-duty trucks with liquefied natural gas
- More than 200 new natural gas powered buses, and the repowering of more than 400 existing natural gas buses, plus the building of several new fueling stations for these bus fleets. Several states have used the Energy Block Grant funding to set aside money for NGV development.
2009 Stimulus Funding
There are more natural gas vehicles on the road today more natural gas fueling locations because of the 2009 federal stimulus package, known officially as The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The stimulus package provided billions of dollars in new funding for transportation related programs, and a small portion of that funding was dedicated to helping communities switch to clean natural gas powered vehicles.