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Clean Air Excellence Awards - May 2012


Since 2004, the Western North Carolina Regional Air Quality Agency (WNCRAQA) has been giving special recognition to local businesses and other organizations that have gone above and beyond air quality rules and regulations to implement voluntary, innovative programs that reduce air pollution in our region. This year, with the assistance of the Agency's Advisory Committee, the awards program was updated and expanded to include more detailed guidelines and generate more interest from the local community. We are pleased to announce the recipients of the ninth-annual Clean Air Excellence Awards. This year, WNCRAQA is presenting the Clean Air Excellence Award to Bill Eaker, Environmental Services Manager at Land-of-Sky Regional Council, and to Mountain Mobility, Buncombe County's Community Transportation System.

Bill Eaker of Land-of-Sky Regional Council has over 30 years of experience in environmental, land use, and growth management planning at the local, regional, and state levels. He has worked at Land-of-Sky Regional Council since 1981 and provides technical assistance to local governments on environmental issues in the areas of air quality planning, clean vehicle technologies, and water resources management. Bill currently serves as the Coordinator of the Regional Clean Air Campaign, which he worked to establish in 1998, and the Land-of-Sky Clean Vehicles Coalition, which he established in 2004. Under Bill's leadership, the Coalition has assisted numerous public and private sector stakeholders in developing and securing grant funding for alternative fuel vehicle and infrastructure projects. These successful projects have resulted in an annual reduction of 319,737 gasoline gallon equivalents and 2,364 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The Coalition's stakeholder fleet includes 1,373 alternative fuel vehicles utilizing biodiesel, E85, CNG, LPG, as well as all-electric and hybrid-electric vehicles. Bill has managed over 50 environmental improvement projects over his career at Land-of-Sky and assisted entities in applying for grant funds totaling $9.8 million in awards since 2002. He has demonstrated outstanding leadership and dedication to preserving and protecting the air quality and natural resources of Buncombe County and the surrounding region.

Mountain Mobility, Buncombe County's Community Transportation System, has taken proactive measures to effectively reduce the system's vehicle emissions by becoming the first community transportation system in the state of North Carolina to use alternative fuel vehicles in a paratransit fleet. A recent project funded by (ARRA) stimulus grant monies involved the conversion of 10 fleet vehicles to a dual fuel system using the PRINS Alternative Fuel System, allowing them to operate on autogas (liquid propane) in addition to gasoline. An onsite LP fueling tank was installed at the Mountain Mobility facility as a part of the project. In addition, 12 new Goshen Coach buses with dual compressed natural gas (CNG)/gasoline fuel systems were purchased to replace 11 paratransit gasoline-powered vans and one diesel-powered light transit vehicle. As a result of the project, 51% of Mountain Mobility's fleet now use alternative fuels, which has reduced air pollution emissions, including 91.6 tons per year of greenhouse gases. In addition to improving air quality, this project has increased the availability of propane fueling infrastructure, raised awareness about alternative fuels in the community, reduced gasoline consumption, and decreased the fuel and maintenance costs of the Mountain Mobility fleet. Project partners and supporters included Land-of-Sky's Clean Vehicles Coalition, the Regional Clean Air Campaign, Blossman Gas, German MotorWerks, Alliance AutoGas, NC DOT-Public Transportation Division, and Buncombe County's Community Transportation Advisory Board. The work of these organizations and businesses has advanced the use of alternative fuel technologies and practices in Buncombe County and in the public transportation industry in North Carolina. After seeing Buncombe County's alternative fuel success story, five other transportation systems have initiated similar clean fuel conversion projects. The cooperative efforts of these organizations recently led to the Buncombe County Sheriff's Department obtaining a grant to convert 10 fleet vehicles to autogas, and an additional fueling site was added at the County Garage.

Awards will be presented at the beginning of the WNCRAQA Board Meeting on May 14th at 4:00 pm at the Agency's office on Mount Carmel Road. For additional information, please contact the Agency at 828-250-6777, wncair@buncombecounty.org.