Port Scrambles for Big Grant to Go Electric

By Mike Lednovich

The Port of Fernandina operator, in partnership with the Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA), is seeking a $40 million Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clean ports grant to convert its gasoline, diesel and hydrogen vehicle fleet to all-electric.

The grant request also includes the installation of solar panels to support the E-vehicle charging infrastructure.

Nassau Marine Terminal is applying for the grant called the Zero-Emission Technology Deployment Competition, which will provide grants that will fund 90% of zero-emission port equipment and infrastructure to reduce mobile source emissions (criteria pollutants, air toxics, and greenhouse gases) at U.S. ports. Nassau Marine Terminal will commit $4 million to the effort if it obtains the grant.

“It’s a huge benefit. We want it for the port, we want it for the community. It would be a huge win for everybody,” said Greg Haehl, Director of Operations for Nassau Marine Terminal. “It will bring a lot of benefits as far as noise reduction, as far as pollution reduction. We were willing to apply for this and even pay millions of dollars for it.”

According to a grant draft reviewed by port commissioners at OHPA’s meeting last Wednesday, the project’s equipment is expected to cost approximately $42 million, which includes numerous charging stations and battery storage facilities both at the port and Nassau Marine Terminal off-site warehouse locations.

“All equipment will serve the Port and its cargo-handling tasks directly. The Project includes replacing drayage trucks which travel between the Port facilities and warehouse locations as well as nearby JAXPORT in Jacksonville, Florida,” the application states.

The application lists a fleet of 62 forklifts, terminal trailers, drayage trucks and reachstackers used at the port and warehouses on Friendly Road and in Yulee.

Submitting the grant came with tense discussions at the OHPA meeting as both parties felt the pressure of a looming application deadline.

The target date for submitting the application is Tuesday and OHPA commissioners were reviewing an attorney revised grant support document for the first time Wednesday. A key issue raised by Port Attorney Patrick Krechowski was the ownership of specific equipment that would be acquired with EPA grant funds.

“We are basically endorsing them (Nassau Marine Terminal) as the applicant. They’re going to be responsible for all of it, but we’re the local government entity that’s a part of the deal,” Krechowski told commissioners. “I would ask you to decide Section 6 (of the document), who is going to own what (equipment) and I will revise (the document) tonight when I have clear direction on Section 6.”

But Haehl told OHPA commissioners he had not seen the revised grant support document. He drew a line in the sand and said Nassau Marine Terminal should own all of the mobile equipment funded by the grant. If not, he declared, the company would not apply.

After discussion, OHPA agreed that any equipment that is fixed in place such as charging stations, electrical system improvements and solar stations would be owned by the special district. Nassau Marine Terminal would own all mobile vehicles.

The last minute push to approve the OHPA support document drew the ire of Commissioner Ray Nelson.

“I’m bothered by what I’m hearing. We’ve got a (port) operator that waits until the 11th hour and brings it (grant application) in here and we can’t even agree across this table now, who is who and who is getting what,” Nelson said. “We have an infrastructure now (at the port) that will not accept this (application improvements). If anybody thinks that’s not the case, let’s take a ride and I’ll show you. We should not be sitting here expecting to vote on something we really don’t understand.”

OHPA Chair Miriam Hill responded and spoke about the grant application process.

“Notice of funding opportunities come out and they are very fast and furious. I agree that we should have had more time to review the application,” she said. “I agree it shouldn’t be a fire drill, that said I have known about this grant and wanted Nassau Terminals to apply for it and initially they thought it wasn’t viable. This dates back to last year, but ultimately we kept trying to come to an agreement, we have one even if it’s novel, that will get us there.”

The proposed grant support document was approved by a 4-1 vote.

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Trusted Member
17 days ago

With the poor history of commission decisions and leadership, at least one “pragmatic” commissioner exists.
Disappointed some commissioners “hip shoot” a forty million dollar decision.
Who’s steering this ship anyway?

Noble Member
17 days ago

Owning electric vehicles is one thing. Great in the beginning. Just wait until these start breaking down. The cost will break this small port.

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