Chicago Area Clean Cities Recognizes Sustainable Transportation Leaders


Chicago Area Clean Cities Coalition (CACC) has named its 2021 Leadership Award winners. The awards are given annually to organizations and individuals that take actions to locally reduce vehicle emissions and improve air quality.

This year’s awardees include Rivian, Ozinga, Cook-Illinois Corp., Trillium and B20 Club.

Dr. Elizabeth A. Kócs, director for Partnerships and Strategy at University of Illinois Chicago’s Energy Initiative, was recognized with a Community Leadership Award for her work in advancing emissions-reducing electric vehicle technologies.

“Rivian, Ozinga, Cook-Illinois Corp., Trillium, B20 Club and Dr. Kócs are exceptional examples for others to follow,” states Samantha Bingham, clean transportation program director for the Chicago Department of Transportation and co-coordinator of CACC. “Their efforts reduce vehicle emissions that cause air pollution and climate change. They’re helping to make the air we breathe cleaner and healthier for all and the world a better place.”

Electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian received CACC’s EV Leadership Award. The company designs, develops and manufactures category-defining electric vehicles (EV) and accessories, and sells them to customers in the consumer and commercial markets. Rivian also offers a suite of proprietary services that address the entire lifecycle of the vehicle. The company began customer deliveries of its R1T truck in September. Rivian employs more than 3,000 workers at its plant in Normal, Ill.

CACC named Cook-Illinois Corp. as the 2021 Clean Transportation Award winner. Under President/COO John Benish, Jr.’s leadership, Cook-Illinois Corp. was the first in Illinois to voluntarily switch an entire bus fleet to blends up to 20% biodiesel (B20). Benish led efforts to implement buses powered by a suite of alternative fuels and technologies, including new technology diesel engines, electricity, propane and 100% biodiesel (B100). He also created the Clean Air Bus, a clean-air mobile museum for children, and led the creation of a mobile farmers market to combat food insecurity in the Chicago area. Benish is an inaugural member of the B20 Club of Illinois and a long-standing member of Chicago Area Clean Cities. He spearheaded efforts to provide sustainable transportation options to Chicago-area school districts to protect the health of students and benefit the environment.

B20 Club is CACC’s Leadership in Public Service winner. Since 2014, B20 Club members have consumed more than 30 million gallons of B20 and higher biodiesel blends, contributing to cleaner air and more sustainable operations throughout Illinois. A partnership between the Illinois Soybean Association checkoff program and the American Lung Association, the B20 Club recognizes a select group of Illinois-based organizations with strong commitments to run fleets on biodiesel blends of 20% or greater. These diverse Illinois-based commercial and government fleets rely on B20 biodiesel and higher biodiesel blends to fuel their vehicles. B20 Club members in Illinois include Ag-Land FS, Al Warren Oil Co. Inc., CityLink (Greater Peoria Mass Transit District), Cook-Illinois Corp., City of Elmhurst, City of Moline, Village of Arlington Heights, Village of Carol Stream, Village of Oak Park, Chicago Park District, ComEd, Lake County Division of Transportation, Green Grease Environmental, Excel Oil Service, Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, Ozinga, G&D Integrated, SK Davison and R&N Trucking.

Winner of the Public-Private Partnership Award, Trillium, a provider of alternative fueling systems and renewable fuels, operates more than 200 compressed natural gas (CNG) stations throughout the U.S. In late 2020, the City of Naperville, along with Trillium and Groot Industries, opened Naperville’s first public CNG fueling station. Trillium built the CNG station with the help of a $300,000 Drive Clean Chicago grant secured by the city in 2016. The city’s refuse and recycling contractor, Groot Industries, agreed to a long-term gas purchase agreement with Trillium.

The station, which is open 24 hours a day, features multiple CNG dispensers for light- and heavy-duty fueling. In addition to use by city vehicles, refuse trucks from Groot, and other CNG fleets operating in and around Naperville, the station is also available to the public. Naperville’s vehicle fleet currently includes vehicles that run on CNG. Over three years, Groot is transitioning more than 20 of its 75 contractor vehicles from diesel fuel to CNG, with the goal of 30% of its fleet running on CNG by next year.

Ozinga Bros.’ Ozinga Energy subsidiary won the Above and Beyond Award. Ozinga Bros. is a fourth-generation, family-owned company providing ready-mix concrete, building materials, logistics and alternative fuel solutions since 1928. It has more than 200 ready-mix concrete mixers running on renewable natural gas and another 600 on 20% biodiesel (B20) in the Chicagoland area.

Over the last decade, Ozinga Energy has served many greater Chicago area fleets by providing CNG as a clean alternative to gasoline and diesel fuels. This has helped a variety of fleets reduce emissions in vehicles ranging from Class 8 tractor trailers to small passenger cars. Many are local delivery trucks, taxis, national carriers and even local college student’s cars.

In 2018, Ozinga Energy secured renewable natural gas (RNG). All Ozinga stations, both public and private, are contracted to supply RNG, which is being produced from decomposing landfill trash. It is now used to replace traditional fuel consumption throughout Ozinga’s stations.

CACC gave the 2021 Community Leadership Award to Dr. Elizabeth A. Kócs. The director for partnerships and strategy at UIC Energy Initiative, she led the 2020 UIC Beneficial Electrification Workshops and published the “Guiding Principles for Beneficial Electrification of Transportation: A Framework for Transportation Electrification in Illinois” report in February 2021; it addresses EV adoption and deployment in Illinois as well as supports advances in transportation electrification for the State of Illinois.

Dr. Kócs leads energy and sustainability programs and initiatives on transportation, storage and smart cities through her work at UIC Energy Initiative, including leading student consulting groups each spring on community and university-related sustainable mobility projects. She has advised UIC Energy Initiative’s partners, including ComEd, Community Charging, UIC Planning, Sustainability & Project Management – Office of Sustainability and Transportation Planning offices, and EV carsharing startup InnovaEV, a new partner for 2022. She also serves as the faculty advisor for the E2S Climate Hub where she provides insight to climate issues for the hub to address. She has been leading the Future of Mobility workshops for the last four years, which have been hosted by the International Smart Cities Symposium.

CACC also recognized clean-vehicle advocate Marcy Rood, an environmental transportation analyst with Argonne National Laboratory, with its most prestigious award as its annual Clean Fuels Champion.

CACC, a nonprofit coalition focused on promoting clean transportation in Chicago and throughout Illinois, is one of more than 75 coalitions across the country affiliated with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program. The Chicago coalition concentrates its efforts on educating businesses and municipalities in the six-county metro region, including Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties. Membership is comprised of federal, state and local governments; corporations; small businesses; and individuals.

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10 months ago

The CNG fueled vehicles are probably in reality using Renewable Natural Gas as the main provider of natural gas for vehicles is Clean Energy. They are quickly transitioning from fossil natural gas to renewable natural gas. RNG is the ONLY carbon negative, near zero emission fuel. It is produced by capturing biogas (60 % methane) from organic waste sites (farms, municipal waste, landfill gas, food spoilage) and converting it to pipeline quality natural gas. No drilling. No fracking. Totally “Renewable” as there is an infinite supply of organic waste. There needs to be more emphasis on the development of RNG… Read more »