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Chelsea Produce Market gets stimulus funds

September 6, 2010

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Excerpts from the Globe’s environmental blog.

Chelsea Produce Market, one of the largest fruit and vegetable distribution centers in the country, is getting some green to help make delivering the green cleaner.

The Environmental Protection Agency has awarded more than $1.56 million in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funding to the Chelsea Collaborative, a nonprofit, to provide electrical repowering units for stationary cold storage trailers at the market. The trailers currently use diesel fuel, adding to air pollution in a city infamous for its smog.

The project is expected to save the market $500,000 a year in energy costs and help support 20 manufacturing, design, and installation jobs.

“Investing in Clean Diesel projects through the Recovery Act is a down payment on protecting health, improving air quality, helping the economy, and creating jobs in our communities,’’ said Curt Spalding, administrator of EPA’s New England office. “New England has some of the highest rates of asthma in the country. By reducing diesel emissions . . . we are helping thousands of our neighbors to breathe easier.’’

EPA awarded an additional $367,000 to the Chelsea Collaborative to reduce diesel emissions in Chelsea city vehicles.

The state is contributing $200,000 from a recent settlement with Exxon-Mobil over its allegations that the company violated state pollution laws at its gasoline terminals in Everett and Springfield.

A green housing plan
It’s long been a problem in the effort to plug leaky house windows or replace energy-guzzling appliances: Those whose homes needed such things the most — low-income families — got them the least.

Now, the Boston-based National Consumer Law Center said pieces of the problem can be solved for up to 3 million families by zeroing in on one big landlord and rental assistance agency: The US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A report by a senior attorney at the law center, Charlie Harak, offers recommendations for the department to ramp up efforts to help lower families’ electric bills and fight climate change in the process.

The department’s annual energy bill exceeds $5 billion, but its most recent report to Congress said it was able to save only $33 million on energy costs, or two-thirds of 1 percent, according to the NCLC.

While American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money has improved that amount, Harak said, the department should be able to reduce its energy bill easily by 20 percent, or $1 billion a year, over time.

An estimated 1.3 million low-income people live in buildings managed by public housing authorities, while another 2 million receive rental assistance.

Harak said the department should follow the lead of Massachusetts, which is working to target low-income neighborhoods, and the Boston Housing Authority, which is borrowing $63 million to upgrade 4,300 apartments.

“HUD has barely touched the low-hanging fruit that could yield tremendous savings for taxpayers and for the poor families that the agency houses,’’ Harak said.

Neill Coleman, a HUD spokesman, said the agency has made energy efficiency a high priority. “Far from ‘inaction,’ HUD is taking aggressive steps to reduce energy costs in many of the ways this report recommends,’’ Coleman said in a statement.

“While we totally agree with the general themes of NCLC’s report, it sadly stops short in recognizing what’s actually happening on the ground.’’