Nearly 100 aging, polluting diesel trucks could be taken off Minnesota’s roads over the next year as the state helps pick up the tab for replacing them with newer, cleaner vehicles.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) will use nearly $4 million of Volks- wagen settlement money to pay dozens of businesses, cities and nonprofits to jettison old diesel trucks and buses and replace them with vehicles that have cleaner-burning diesel engines. Engines using compressed natural gas, electric engines and some form of hybrid vehicle will also be eligible, according to the agency.
The state will pay up to 25% of the replacement cost, or $40,000 for each replaced vehicle, which must be at least 10 years old, and will accept applications online until July 9.
The money comes from a pot of $47 million that the state received as part of the nearly $15 billion court settlement in the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal. The settlement detailed specific projects eligible for the money, such as replacing old school buses, garbage trucks, delivery trucks and snowplows with cleaner engines.
Last year, the MPCA focused on helping school districts replace old buses. Now it will open the grants to heavy trucks used by both public and private organizations, as well as cities that are replacing old transit buses.
The primary aim is to cut the amount of nitrogen oxides being pumped into the air, said Mark Sulzbach, MPCA grants coordinator.
“Those were the emissions that the offending Volkswagens were polluting, at up to 40 times the allowable limit,” Sulzbach said. “So to clean that up, we’re finding that the most efficient way — the best bang for the buck — is to go after these old and big diesel engines.”
Diesel truck engines built in 2019 produce about 95% less nitrogen oxide and fine particulate matter than they did in the 2000s, he said.
Under the program, the old vehicles will need to be destroyed so they can’t be sold or put back on the road.
“We call it tough love, but the idea is to make it so these old engines can’t pollute again,” Sulzbach said.
The state is accepting applications to replace engines that were made before 2010.
That’s the year when diesel engines started becoming much more efficient, Sulzbach said.
“And the newer ones are much more efficient, so they’re producing less carbon and greenhouse gases as well,” Sulzbach said.
The state will also pay to replace diesel engines with those run on cleaner-burning fuel, which have become more popular with trash collectors and municipalities.
The MPCA has run much smaller versions of the program for the past 10 years with federal funds.
Before the influx of the settlement money, the state typically helped replace five or six delivery, garbage or dump trucks a year at a cost of roughly $200,000.
Now it will be able to offer grants to dozens of businesses and cities.
The MPCA is doling out the settlement money in phases. This latest effort will mark the end of phase one, which used about $12 million.
Along with trucks and buses, the MPCA also paid to upgrade airport equipment, purchased about 65 electric charging stations and replaced heavy-duty off-road equipment like tugboats and ferries.
The state is still deciding exactly how it will spend the remaining $35 million during the next phases, which will begin in 2020, Sulzbach said. But it will probably offer similar programs to both public and private organizations to continue phasing out older diesel engines.
“We’re still gathering input, but we know we’re getting a good return on replacing these heavy-duty diesel trucks and buses.”