The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) will spend a bit more on cleaner school buses and increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations installed on major roads in response to public feedback on how it proposed to spend the first $11.75 million of its share of the federal legal settlement with Volkswagen.
In October, the German carmaker agreed to pay the U.S. government $15 billion for allowing its diesel vehicles to produce 30 to 40 times the amount of nitrogen oxide allowed by U.S. air regulations. Between now and 2027, Minnesota will receive $47 million as its share of the $2.9 billion allocated to states and tribes.
The amounts were based on the number of violating vehicles in each jurisdiction.
The agreement requires governments to use the settlement money to reduce air pollution by diesel vehicles. That primarily means replacing older diesel vehicles or equipment with new ones that produce less pollution, but which can use any fuel, including diesel, propane, natural gas and electricity.
The MPCA’s plan, developed during the past year with 16 public meetings across the state, calls for spending 60 percent of the first payout in the Twin Cities and 40 percent throughout the rest of the state, a ratio that reflects where the offending Volkswagen vehicles were located.
After receiving nearly 600 comments on the draft plan it released in March, the MPCA decided to increase the amounts spent to improve school buses, especially in low-income districts. Many commenters said that the $10,000 grants would not be enough to persuade school bus owners to retire the older, more polluting buses early. MPCA now says it will increase the grants to $15,000 and up to $20,000 for low income districts.
It also changed its plans on electric vehicle charging stations. Instead of fewer, fast-charging 150 kW stations, it will install more 50 kW stations. MPCA officials said the public comments reflected a strong interest in increasing the number of charging stations to accelerate the use of electric vehicles across the state. The MPCA will consider adding the 150 kW stations during later stages of funding.
Now, the final plan for the $11.7 million calls for:
• 20 percent on school bus replacements.
• 35 percent to improve emissions from heavy-duty on-road vehicles.
• 15 percent to improve emissions on heavy-duty off-road vehicles.
• 15 percent for pilot use of heavy-duty electric vehicles.
• 15 percent on electric vehicle charging stations.
The MPCA has submitted Minnesota’s plan to the national trustee in charge of the disbursement for approval. It expects to issue requests for proposals sometime this summer.