When Tony Bandiero signed on to become a board member of the Greater Philadelphia Clean Cities (GPCC) coalition seven years ago, it seemed an unlikely match. This was because Bandiero came from “the dark side” — the petroleum industry — as he likes to joke.
Bandiero learned about Clean Cities when he attended a GPCC board meeting on behalf of his employer, who was trying to gain support to build an E-85 station. Shortly after, he was asked to serve on the coalition’s board of directors. His move to the “green side” became complete when he took the helm as executive director about five years ago.
“I’ve found there’s a lot of crossover between both industries and the work we do,” he said. “The need to create strong relationships is still there, and there will always be a need for people to fuel their vehicles. The petroleum industry hasn’t historically been interested in making changes.”
Fast-forward to today, and the coalition — now known as the Eastern Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Transportation (EPACT) — is blazing a trail for alternative fuels/vehicles throughout the state. The Coalition serves five counties in the southeast and 34 counties in the central and eastern parts of the Keystone State.
In 2013 alone, coalition stakeholders saved more than 581,300 gallons of petroleum and averted more than 2,600 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Equally as important, EPACT has honed its reputation as the go-to resource for fleets, fuel providers, community leaders, and other stakeholders seeking to secure local and state grants for projects to reduce their petroleum use.
“We’ve taken the approach of aggregating multiple entities with small- to medium-sized projects into a single grant application, which has proved to be very successful,” Bandiero said. “This has allowed more fleets to try alternative fuels and have a better chance of success, as opposed to applying just for themselves.”
A prime example of this occurred in 2013 following the passage of Act 13, a Pennsylvania law making $20 million in grants available over the period of three years to assist public and private entities to convert medium- to heavy-duty vehicles to natural gas. The grant entitled awardees to receive up to 50 percent of the incremental conversion cost, or up to $25,000 per vehicle.
“The caveat to this program was that you had to have a five-vehicle minimum to apply, so that’s where our coalition came in,” Bandiero said. “Out of the seven partners, five had fewer than five vehicles. So, we combined them into one application as a single entity and we applied on their behalf.”
The move for EPACT to apply on the stakeholders’ behalf proved successful, and the grant helped pay for 35 vehicles to be converted to natural gas. These included heavy-duty pickup trucks, dump trucks, cargo vans, and school buses.
“Being green is always a great motivator, but really it comes down to the cost and savings,” he said. “It’s a beautiful thing when those things align.”
Editor's note: Kendall Septon works for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.