Minnesota received $47 million in the national Volkswagen court settlement, and state officials are floating a plan on how to spend half that money intended to reduce air pollution and edge the state toward "a cleaner transportation future."
The German automaker paid $2.9 billion in 2017 to settle a federal lawsuit after the company was caught violating air pollution standards in its diesel cars and SUVs. The funds that have been divvied up nationwide are being spent over a 10-year period.
In a draft plan released Wednesday, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) said will invest $23.5 million over the next four years. All told, about 65% of the funds, which will be spent in 2020 and 2023, will be used to help electrify Minnesota's transportation sector.
About $7 million will be spent on electric heavy-duty vehicles, such as transit buses; $4.7 million on electric school buses; $3.5 million on cleaner heavy-duty vehicles, including trucks; $2.35 million on school bus replacement; and $2.35 million on cleaner, heavy-duty off-road equipment, such as locomotives, ferries and port equipment.
The MPCA also said it will spend 90% of the $3.52 million set aside for 43 electric vehicle charging stations in greater Minnesota, expanding the statewide charging network by more than 2,400 miles. That is the maximum amount allowed for electric vehicle charging stations under the settlement.
The MPCA created the draft plan after gleaning input from across the state. "Support for more [electric vehicles] was the most-common comment we received using our public engagement," MPCA noted.
Sixty percent of the funds will be invested in the Twin Cities metro area, and the rest in greater Minnesota.
"In the Twin Cities, participants shared concerns about school buses, and the need to replace more of them with newer technology vehicles, especially electric buses," the report states. Others expressed interest in using electric vehicles and concern that "without charging opportunities across the state, they would not be able to travel outside of the metropolitan area."
The first phase of the settlement for Minnesota was $11.75 million, replacing 252 pieces of diesel equipment with less-polluting models, and installing 47 electric vehicle charging stations across the state.