HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) launched an initiative Thursday to support a shift toward electric freight trucks.

The $12.7 million “Electrifying Truck Fleets for Cleaner Air in Our Communities” initiative aims to improve air quality by supporting local freight truck electrification, according to DEP. The department will prioritize projects serving environmental justice areas, high traffic density areas, and financially distressed municipalities.

“Our newest Driving PA Forward initiative aims to support transformational scale electrification of local trucks to improve air quality in communities with some of the highest air pollution levels in Pennsylvania,” said DEP Acting Secretary Ramez Ziadeh. “A growing number of communities are proactively pursuing healthier air quality and greenhouse emission reductions. They’re interested in zero-emission electric options for the kinds of trucks that travel their neighborhoods on a regular basis.”

Ziadeh said DEP will provide at least 75%, and in some cases 100%, of the funding needed by local governments, businesses, and nonprofits to replace old diesel trucks with new all-electric vehicles. The funds will cover local freight trucks, like garbage and delivery trucks, as well as charging infrastructure and installation, DEP said.

“This new Driving PA Forward initiative will help respond to concerns we’ve heard directly from residents of environmental justice communities about air quality issues, by helping to get some of the most regularly seen and polluting vehicles on neighborhood streets converted to cleaner electric alternatives,” said DEP Environmental Justice Director Justin Dula.

Additionally, DEP announced $1.7 million in Driving PA Forward State Clean Diesel Grants is going to three projects to replace old diesel trucks with zero- or low-emission trucks. The recipients include SMS Mill Services in Chester County, Metalico Pittsburgh, and Dietz & Watson in Philadelphia.

DEP noted that fossil fuel-powered vehicles emit around 50% of nitrogen oxides in the air in Pennsylvania, according to EPA data, and they also emit carbon monoxide, fine particulate matter, and hydrocarbons.

Fossil fuel-powered vehicles are the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Pennsylvania, generating 22% of carbon dioxide emissions statewide and contributing to climate change, DEP said.

Health impacts of air pollution include heart attacks, aggravated asthma, increased respiratory symptoms, and even premature death in people with heart or lung disease, according to DEP.

Electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions, DEP said.