Washington is eligible to receive $112.7 million in Volkswagen settlement money to reduce air pollution from transportation. Ecology has drafted a goal, guiding principles, and project priorities for the settlement money and wants you to weigh in. These will be included in the state’s plan for use of the money.
An investigation by the EPA revealed, and Volkswagen admitted, the company manufactured diesel vehicles with software that cheated emission tests by only turning on the vehicle’s emission control systems when the car was being tested. As a result, the affected vehicles are emitting up to 40 times the permitted levels of nitrogen oxides. Volkswagen entered into multiple settlements with the EPA for violating the federal Clean Air Act. Washington has about 22,000 of the affected cars registered in the state.
Gov. Jay Inslee has designated Ecology as the state agency that will lead efforts associated with the settlement money. We are working in partnership with the Washington Departments of Transportation and Commerce to develop a plan that outlines how the state will use the money.
There are multiple settlements. Which one is Ecology working on?
The settlement agreements that Volkswagen entered into have three different tracks:
- Mitigation Trust Fund: Reducing air pollution from transportation.
- Zero Emission Vehicle Investment Fund: Investments in electric vehicle infrastructure and outreach to increase awareness of them.
- Consumer Relief: Buy backs and repairs for owners of the affected vehicles.
In this blog post we are focusing on the Mitigation Trust Fund and what we are doing Washington. Volkswagen will administer the other two parts of the settlement. To read more about the Mitigation Fund and the other settlements, visit the backgrounder page on our website.
Weigh in on our the goal, principles, and priorities
There are very specific requirements that states have to include in their plans. One of the
requirements is giving the public an opportunity to provide feedback on the approach states are taking for project selection. So, we want to hear what you think about the goal, overarching principles, and project priorities that we will include in Washington’s plan when we draft it.
We have launched a survey that gives people, governments, and groups an opportunity to weigh in. The survey closes 5 p.m., March 23, 2017. Take the 3-minute survey now!
- Fully mitigate total lifetime excess of nitrogen oxide emissions from affected VW vehicles.
- Maximize air quality benefits and improve public health.
- Ensure cost effectiveness.
- Benefit sensitive populations and highly-impacted communities.
- Air quality co-benefits (reducing other pollutants) beyond nitrogen oxide reductions.
- Leverage additional funds.
- Promote transformational change in vehicle emissions reductions.
- Accelerate adoption of electric vehicles.
- Use proven technologies.
- Accelerate fleet turnover to cleaner engines.
- Substantial additional emission reductions.
Funding projects and helping communities
As mentioned, the $112.7 million the state expects to receive has very specific ways the
money can be used. These requirements are clearly outlined in the consent decree. This money would be held separate from the state budget by a trustee and cannot be used to fund other state needs.
Some communities bear a disproportionate burden of air pollution. By design, the consent decree requires that states fund projects in communities suffering from air pollution.
As Ecology develops the state’s plan to use the money we will include considerations for suffering communities. And, we’ve incorporated this thinking into our principles we are asking you to weigh in on.
As mentioned, there are very specific requirements around the types of projects states and tribes can fund.
Eligible uses of the funds include repowering or replacing the following with less-polluting options:
- Airport ground support equipment
- Class 4-7 local trucks
- Class 4-8 school/shuttle/transit buses
- Class 8 local freight trucks and port drayage trucks
- Forklifts and cargo handling equipment at ports
- Freight switcher locomotives
- Shorepower for ocean going vessels
The funds can also be used for:
- Light duty zero emission vehicle supply equipment (limited to 15% of funds).
- Matching funds for projects eligible under the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA).
States are allowed to invest up to 15 percent of the funds in projects for zero emission vehicle infrastructure, like public charging stations for electric cars. Gov. Inslee has directed
us to maximize the 15 percent to improve electrification of our transportation system which will can reduce air pollution. This will also help achieve our state’s Results Washington goal of 50,000 electric vehicles on the road by the year 2020.
What’s next and staying informed
There are several steps that need to occur before we can start funding projects. Visit our Volkswagen web page to take a look at the steps.
In the coming weeks and months we will be offering a variety of ways to stay informed and get involved. Opportunities range from roundtable discussions, webinars, listening sessions, and commenting on our draft plan. Please sign up to receive emails to stay informed.
If you have specific thoughts you would like to share with Ecology about the Volkswagen settlement and development of the project selection plan, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.