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​In 2007, Mecklenburg County Air Quality initiated an air pollution control program called GRADE or Grants to Replace Aging Diesel Engines.

GRADE is designed to reduce nitrogen oxides, an ozone-forming air pollutant, by providing businesses and organizations funding incentives to replace or repower heavy-duty non-road diesel powered equipment with newer, cleaner, less polluting diesel engines. Over 300 tons of ozone-forming air pollution has been reduced over the life of the program. 

The success of GRADE, and its sister program AeroGRADE that targets the airline industry, led to national recognition last fall when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SEDC (Southeast Diesel Collaborative) selected the Mecklenburg County Air Quality GRADE Program for the 2013 SEDC "Visionary" Award.
In addition to the SEDC Visionary award, Mecklenburg County Public Information (PI) was recently honored with a Bronze Telly Award for producing a public information video for the GRADE program. The video was created by Mecklenburg County Public Information's Joe Travis and Charlie Cowins.
The GRADE video was created as a tool to showcase the benefits of the program to other government and planning organizations that may initiate similar diesel exhaust emission reduction programs.   The informational video illustrates how easily GRADE can be implemented and includes segments on each element of the grant program including Application Review, Project Approval, Contract Development, and Emissions Reporting.  Eric Moore who produced the video with PI staff said, "GRADE is an effective strategy for improving air quality and the GRADE model can easily be implemented across a variety of business applications.”