Hampton Roads was recognized as a Clean Cities Coalition by the U.S. Department of Energy in 1996. In 2001, the non-profit Virginia Clean Cities, Inc. was created to manage the Coalition. In 2009, Virginia Clean Cities formed a partnership with James Madison University enabling both organizations to leverage resources, current initiatives, and future opportunities. Virginia Clean Cities has an office at James Madison University, and serves as a cornerstone program in the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER).

The Clean Cities program is sponsored by the Department of Energy in accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 1992. This legislation’s express intent is to ensure national energy security by reducing dependence on imported petroleum products. The Clean Cities program was chartered to help achieve this objective by promoting alternative fuel use in the transportation sector.

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