607,000 Toxic Tons Thwarted

607,000 Toxic Tons Thwarted

Did you know that northern Indiana has a Clean Cities coalition that’s helped prevent the weight of almost two buildings’ worth of emissions from entering our air?

This summer, Crown Point-based South Shore Clean Cities (SSCC) reached its 20-year milestone and published data on the positive impact its projects and partnerships have achieved. SSCC is one of about a hundred Clean Cities coalitions throughout the country under the direction of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Its territory covers 18 counties in roughly the northern third of the state of Indiana.

Throughout its history, SSCC has done a great deal to keep Indiana’s air clean. For example, according to the DOE, in the last 10 years alone SSCC members have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 607,000 tons and reduced the number of gasoline gallon equivalents by 93 million gallons. That is the equivalent of removing 175,500 passenger vehicles from the road for one year and eliminating the use of nearly two million barrels of oil.


Think about it.

Think about that gas emission reduction for a second. 607,000 tons is about equal in weight to 1.66 Empire State Buildings, which itself weighs about 365,000 tons. That means SSCC has helped prevent the weight of nearly two full buildings from polluting our air.


Last year, the organization was honored at the National Clean Cities Coordinator Training Workshop for having the most outreach events of any in the nation. SSCC has also assisted its members in successfully acquiring nearly $100 million in grant funding since its inception.

On top of all that, the organization has demonstrated constant momentum. In 2009, members reduced about 2,461 tons of greenhouse emissions. In 2017, they reduced emissions by 113,523 tons. In 2019, that figure was over 151,200 tons.


How’d They Do It?

SSCC was able to achieve such high numbers by launching numerous projects with major public and private partners over the years. Notable project highlights include:

  • The BP Cleaner Air through Diesel Emissions Reductions (BP CADER) grant program: The program provided $450,000 through a competitive grant process aimed at reducing diesel emissions in Lake County from 2012 to 2016. Highlights included the launch of propane school busses in East Chicago and MediDock stations to reduce ambulance idling.
  • NIPSCO’s IN-Charge Project: The project led to the deployment of more than 250 home electric vehicle charging stations and 159 public charging stations in 60 locations between 2012 and 2016.
  • Green Fleet Program: Through this current program, SSCC guides nearly 60 municipal, county, school, and university member fleets to help mitigate barriers preventing the adoption of sustainable transportation options while creating policies supporting emission reductions.
  • Michigan to Montana (M2M) I-94 Clean Fuel Corridor: Numerous partners on this project are currently working to establish adequate alternative fueling sites along a 1,500-mile span of Interstate 94, stretching from Michigan to Montana.

What’s Next?

As to what’s next for SSCC, Executive Director Carl Lisek said the plan is to continue educating fleet owners and working with partners to develop custom emission reduction strategies that owners can implement.

“It starts with educating the decision-makers on the environmental and economic benefits of sustainable transportation and getting to know their fleets,” Lisek said. “Once they see there are options to make improvements that help reduce their carbon footprint and increase their bottom line, we make the connections with our other members and partners in the industry to help meet their specific needs. That’s key because this isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of industry.”

He also said that SSCC will be working to implement Indiana Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund grant projects, which seeks to remove and replace older diesel vehicles with cleaner alternatives.

This summer, the trust fund committee approved first round grant awards and SSCC members/partners were awarded over $6.1 million, representing more than half of the total $9.8 million that was distributed statewide. With the next funding round beginning this fall, Lisek said he expects SSCC to be busy helping more organizations become grant ready.


Clearer Skies Ahead

With 20 proud years of achievements behind them, the efforts of SSCC aren’t slowing down now. Though there is still much more work ahead for clean energy in the Hoosier state, these accomplishments are an important step in the right direction. As SSCC continues to grow and launch new emissions-reducing projects, Indiana will be able to save substantial amounts of fuel and money, breathing a little easier in turn.