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VW Settlement to Fund Cleaner Buses

RALEIGH — The state plans to fund cleaner school buses with part of its $92 million share of a national settlement with Volkswagen for unlawfully cheating on vehicle emissions, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ, announced Wednesday.

At the direction of Gov. Roy Cooper, the DEQ’s Division of Air Quality, or DAQ, worked with the public to shape the proposed plan for Phase 1, according to the release. Based on feedback, there was overwhelming support for replacing school buses with new, more efficient models.

“Putting cleaner school buses on the road is a smart way to cut harmful pollution and improve air quality,” Gov. Cooper said in the statement. “North Carolina has a plan to invest these funds so kids get new buses to ride to school as well as cleaner air to breathe for years to come.”

States must develop plans for using their settlement funds and submit them for approval to the trustee of the Volkswagen Mitigation Fund. North Carolina’s plan involves three phases of funding for five programs, so DEQ can seek additional input and make changes as needed along the way, according to the website.  DEQ plans to invest 33 percent of the overall funds, around $30.68 million, during this period, which is from 2018-2020.

The Phase 1 plan,which will focus on public sector needs, includes the following:

  • 40 percent, or around $12.2 million, to be spent on school bus replacements.
  • 20 percent, or around $6 million, designated for transit bus replacements.
  • 10 percent for heavy-duty on-road equipment replacement projects.
  • 10 percent for heavy-duty off-road equipment replacement projects.

Based on feedback from the public, the state will also designate the maximum allowance of 15 percent of the funds toward zero emission vehicle infrastructure projects. Public and private sector projects will be eligible for the about $4.6 million available in Phase 1.

Once the plan is accepted by the trustee of the Volkswagen Mitigation Fund, DAQ said it will put out a request for proposals.  At that point, eligible organizations, which include local, state and tribal government organizations, public or private nonprofit organizations, and public/private partnerships where the lead applicant represents a public sector or a public or private nonprofit, can submit their projects with selections scheduled for spring or summer 2019.

Beginning in fall of 2019, DAQ will provide opportunities for public involvement on the draft plan for Phase 2.

To receive email updates on the Volkswagen settlement, email the word ‘Subscribe’ in the subject line to daq.NC_VWGrants@ncdenr.gov.

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Staff Report

The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.