The Illinois Alliance for Clean Transportation (IACT), formerly known as Chicago Area Clean Cities, has named its 2022 Sustainable Transportation Award winners. The awards are given annually to organizations and individuals who take actions to locally reduce vehicle emissions and improve air quality.
This year’s organizations awarded include the Illinois Soybean Association, Christopher B. Burke Engineering, based in Rosemont, and the Eco-Friendly Mobile Farm Stand Project in Elmhurst. Individuals awarded include Tim Milburn, partner of Green Ways 2Go, and Dr. Eleftheria Kontou, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who was named Researcher of the Year.
“Each of these organizations and individuals have had a profound impact on sustainable transportation in Illinois,” says Samantha Bingham, IACT’s co-coordinator. “Their efforts reduce emissions that cause air pollution and climate change and help to make the air we breathe cleaner and healthier for all.”
The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) received IACT’s Policy Leadership Award for successfully spearheading efforts to pass biodiesel legislation in Illinois. The legislation, passed in April, extends the state’s sale tax incentive that exempts diesel fuel blended with more than 10% biodiesel – commonly resulting in a B11 blend – from the state’s 6.25% sales tax through 2023 and steadily increases the required biodiesel percentage from blends over 10% to blends over 19% by 2026. The legislation is expected to expand access to B20 blends at more than 85% of public retail stations and a majority of fleet fueling centers in Illinois. The legislation also included a first-of-its-kind exemption for renewable diesel blends that meet the same percentage requirements as biodiesel. The legislation is expected to strengthen the tax incentive’s existing health and environmental benefits and boost in-state biodiesel demand by an estimated 125 million gallons on top of the current 160 million gallons of annual demand.
The Illinois Soybean Association set out to renew and expand the expiring biodiesel sales tax exemption in 2020 to ensure demand for biodiesel continued. ISA partnered with Indigenous Energy, the American Lung Association, members of the B20 Club of Illinois, in-state advocates, and organizations like the Illinois Farm Bureau to educate legislators on the benefits of biodiesel. Their successful two-year campaign included educational sessions with leading fleets such as Ozinga Bros., the Chicago Park District, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, and the Village of Arlington Heights, as well as events at Illinois’ capitol and more. The events were used as an opportunity to educate legislators on the health, environmental, and economic benefits of biodiesel fuel. The strategy was ultimately successful, leading to the passage of the bill in April 2022, championed by Senator Patrick Joyce (D-Essex) in the Senate and Representative Eva Dina Delgado (D-Chicago) in the House.
The new bill gradually increases the biodiesel levels required for the state sales tax exemption from the current blends over B10 to blends over B19 in 2026. This will increase biodiesel consumption by an estimated 125 million gallons per year and reduce CO2 emissions by 1 million metric tons.
The Eco-Friendly Mobile Farm Stand Project, based in Elmhurst, received a Community Solutions Award. The project is a 501(c)(3) organization that donates electric mobile farm stands to urban farming organizations serving neighborhoods without access to fresh fruit and vegetables. The nonprofit works with urban farms that serve neighborhoods impacted by food insecurity, to create an environmentally and economically sustainable, hyper-local, food delivery/transportation system – all accomplished without the use of gasoline and emitting harmful pollution into the air. Following the recent loss of three grocery stores in Garfield Park, the project collaborated with the Garfield Park Community Council to put an Eco-Friendly Mobile Farm Stand in service for them to use to serve those who were affected the most by food insecurity – senior citizens.
The Garfield Park Community Council is using its Eco-Friendly Mobile Farm Stand to reach seniors in the East and West Garfield Park neighborhoods, many of whom receive benefits, such as Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program coupons, but live in areas where markets can be scarce. They can deliver more than 300 pounds of fresh produce to senior facilities without having to pay for expensive gasoline and release harmful emissions into the local air. The eco-friendly deliveries are an alternative to other forms of public and personal transportation to the nearest grocery store which can be as much as five miles away.
Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd., based in Rosemont, has been named Workplace of the Year by IACT. The firm’s goal this past year was to increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations at its office from four to six and to build charging infrastructure that could be used in the future for electric vehicle charging stations. The new EV charging stations are available to employees at no cost in support of reduced emissions and our overall reduced carbon footprint. The reservation system provided by EVmatch allows employees and the public to know they will have an open electric port to use at their desired time of use. The EV charging stations are available at a low cost per kWh to the public. The original four EV charging stations are non-networked and available only to employees at no cost.
Tim Milburn, a partner in the firm Green Ways 2Go and a member of IACT’s steering committee, was recognized with an EV Charging Solutions Award. Milburn received the award for his work creating a training program to deploy electric vehicle charging solutions for multi-family dwellings.
Milburn also created an EV Readiness Decision Guide for local governments. Working with IACT, Milburn oversaw several listening sessions with commercial and municipal fleets, resulting in a regional study on alternative fuels along interstates; provided first-responder training; and presented at several IACT webinars throughout the year, helping to educate private and public fleet managers and the public.
Dr. Eleftheria Kontou, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been named Researcher of the Year. Dr. Kontou’s research on electric vehicle charging infrastructure planning, supported by the Illinois Center for Transportation and the Illinois Department of Transportation, helps the state of Illinois determine how to optimally deploy chargers over time to meet statewide emissions reduction goals and reach electric vehicle adoption targets, aligned with the recently passed Climate & Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA).
Dr. Kontou’s research group developed a suitability map for EV charging infrastructure, taking into account a diverse set of criteria addressing economic, societal, and environmental justice considerations, showcasing the important role of equity in planning for the next generation of emerging and sustainable mobility systems. The suitability mapping work was part of the state of Illinois NEVI plan. The analysis forecast identified census tracts that should be prioritized during the Illinois statewide deployment of charging infrastructure along with interstates and major highways that traverse them. According to the research, interstates and highways I-90, I-80, I-55 and I-57 have high suitability scores for charging stations.