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Peoria Welcomes Electric Transit Buses ElBae & Friends

Originally published by NRDC.
By Alyssa BrownSelena Kyle 

This is the fifth in a series of blogs celebrating the grant projects funded through our Clean Air Act settlement with the owners of the E.D. Edwards coal-fired power plant outside Peoria, Illinois. The settlement provides for the plant to close by the end of 2022 and makes $8.6 million available for local job training, lung-health, energy-efficiency, solar-energy, and bus-electrification projects. Each blog features the great work one of the settlement grantees is doing to promote public health and quality of life in the Peoria, Illinois area.

The Greater Peoria Mass Transit District, also known as CityLink, is celebrating the launch of a new all-electric bus it purchased with a $1.23 million grant from the Edwards Settlement Fund. The bus will join two identical models CityLink purchased with funds from the Federal Transit Administration’s Low or No Emission Bus Program. Once they go into service in October 2021, the buses will replace and allow CityLink to retire three older and more polluting diesel models, furthering its commitment to reducing its environmental impact and improving air quality and quality of life in and Peoria. The commitment also includes development of a new operations center powered by 300 solar panels. CityLink is proud to be one of the first downstate Illinois transit districts to be adding all-electric buses to its fleet.

Edwards Settlement Fund group representatives Robin Nolting, Joyce Harant, and Allen Grosboll; NRDC managing litigator and Edwards trial team lead Selena Kyle; and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin in front of the Edwards settlement-funded bus at CityLink’s electric bus launch event in Peoria on September 8, 2021. Courtesy of Daryl Wilson Photography.

For at least the first five years of its service life, the Edwards-settlement-funded bus will be dedicated to routes that serve some of Peoria’s poorest neighborhoods, including neighborhoods close to the Edwards plant. That bus also features a colorful, kid-friendly wrap, designed for CityLink by NRDC’s Alex Spacher and Jen Ng, and electric bus mascot, ElBae, created by freelance designer Algernon Quashie. On the wrap, ElBae touts the benefits of bus electrification and talks about how “my zero-emissions electric engine is moving Peoria into the future.”

The Edwards-settlement-funded bus wrap designs, created by NRDC designers Alex Spacher and Jen Ng, and ElBae mascot, created by freelance designer Algernon Quashie.

ElBae is right. Switching all U.S. buses to electric would save more than 600 million gallons of gas and eliminate more than 2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year. Bus electrification also reduces people’s exposure to diesel tailpipe pollution. Like the illegal ash pollution from the Edwards plant that NRDC and its partners Respiratory Health Association, Environmental Law and Policy Center, and Sierra Club sued to abate, diesel tailpipe pollution increases the risk of emphysema, asthma, chronic heart and lung disease, and cancer.

The Edwards settlement-funded bus being cutting the ribbon at CityLink’s electric bus launch on September 8, 2021. Courtesy of Daryl Wilson Photography.

CityLink’s Assistant General Manager Nick Standefer notes that the new buses are long overdue and very welcome. Most of CityLink’s buses are more than a decade old, and many are due for replacement. Nick is excited that CityLink will now be in the position to offer many of its passengers a more modern and comfortable ride. As ElBae notes, CityLink’s electric buses will “get you to work with no exhaust and no noise!” Nick and CityLink are beyond ecstatic to have electric buses in their fleet. We hope riders enjoy them as well, and that if you find yourself in Peoria you’ll look out for and catch a ride with ElBae.

The other Edwards settlement-funded projects include a solar array on Peoria’s Romain Arts and Culture Community Center; the expansion of a job-assistance program run by Peoria’s Jubilee Ministries; the electric buses that two Peoria-area school districts have added to their fleets; and an increased stipend for PeoriaCorps’ Green Infrastructure training program. NRDC and its coplaintiffs chose the projects with the help of their community partners Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance, Illinois People’s Action, and the Peoria NAACP. For a full project list, visit EdwardsCleanAirSettlement.org.

 
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NRDC is the nation's most effective environmental action group, combining the grassroots power of 1.3 million members and online activists with the courtroom clout and expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists, and other professionals.

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