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Local mill, food company gets electric trucks with state help

New Keystone program may turn tractor trailers from diesel to electric vehicles
New Keystone program may turn tractor trailers from diesel to electric vehicles 01:49

CHESTER COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) -- SMS Mill services, a Chester County steel scrap processor, will replace three old diesel material handlers with three new electric handlers with a $1.2 million grant from Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). 

Dietz & Watson, a Philadelphia deli foods company, will also get $83,000 to replace a diesel transportation refrigeration unit with an electric unit. 

That money, in turn, comes from a settlement with Volkswagen, which admitted to falsifying information about diesel car emissions. 

The grant to Metalico was one of three announced Thursday in Harrisburg by DEP, part of a $12.7 million "Electrifying Truck Fleets for Cleaner Air in Our Communities" program – which, in turn, is part of a broader "Driving PA Forward" initiative. 

The grants prioritize "environmental justice areas," where residents are more likely to be poor and develop asthma because of local air pollution. These areas cover much of the Delaware Valley

"It's vitally important that transportation move in the direction of electrification," Ramez Ziadeh, DEP's acting secretary, said at a press conference. 

Grant money will help buy trucks and build charging stations. 

"There's a chicken-and-egg problem where nobody builds the charging infrastructure until the vehicles get sold, and then people don't want to buy the vehicles until the charging infrastructure is in place," explained Rob Altenburg, senior director of climate and energy for PennFuture, an advocacy organization. 

He said government incentives can help "prime the pump" until market forces take over – which is just as true for consumers buying cars, SUVs and light trucks, he said. 

In Pennsylvania, consumers can receive up to $3,000 in rebates from the state for purchasing an electric vehicle, depending on their family income, in addition to federal tax savings of up to $7,500 for certain new electric vehicles and up to $4,000 for new ones.

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