The EBCI Air Quality Office has, once again, collaborated with the Cherokee Boys Club and received a grant through the North Carolina (NC) Phase 1 Volkswagen (VW) Mitigation Program. The first collaboration between the EBCI AQO and the Boys Club was in 2012 and resulted in a biodiesel production facility, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The biodiesel facility is operated by the Boys Club and the biodiesel that is produced is used in their 26 school buses. (See the One Feather’s coverage here.)

The NC VW Mitigation grant that was awarded to EBCI will allow the Boys Club to replace a 1998 diesel bus with a 2021 Proterra Electric Bus and charging station. This project “Native Electric” will test a new clean transportation technology that will reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) and other harmful diesel emissions to help protect natural resources and viewsheds on EBCI lands. The primary contributor of NOx on EBCI lands are mobile sources (93%). Diesel engines contribute to this problem by emitting NOx and SOx, which transform into secondary particles in the atmosphere. Emission of NOx contribute to the formation of ground level ozone, which irritates the respiratory system. Ground level ozone pollution, formed when nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbon emissions combine in the presence of sunlight, presents a hazard for both healthy adults and individuals suffering from respiratory problems like asthma.

Another benefit of this project is the reduction of fine particulates (PM2.5) from diesel exhaust that scatters sunlight and creates haze that obscures our mountain vistas. This improvement in visibility will help our tourism industry and increase our visitor experience. Stay tuned for more information on this project as we are just at the initial stages of receiving the award.

This article was originally published in the September 2020 edition of Elohi View, the DANR newsletter.