More than 80 Washington school districts and 19 public transit fleets will receive a total of $22 million to buy electric or low-emission buses as part of the state’s $28.4 million settlement from the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal.
In September 2015, Volkswagen admitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the company installed fraudulent emissions software on certain diesel vehicles equipped with 2- and 3-liter engines. The emission-cheating software violated both the federal and state Clean Air Acts. As a result, illegal levels of harmful nitrogen oxides were released into the state’s atmosphere.
Volkswagen’s combined settlement amounted to $157 million. Washington Department of Ecology was awarded $28.4 million for the more than 22,000 affected vehicles in the state.
The department — which oversees the settlement funds — awarded $9.4 million Snohomish, King, Pierce, Lewis, Benton, Spokane and Clark counties to purchase 19 electric transit buses.
Volkswagen funding provided about $500,000 for each of the 19 transit buses. The amount is intended to cover the difference between a standard diesel bus and a zero-emission electric bus.
“Putting cleaner buses on the road is an important mile marker in investing these funds,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a release. “By helping local agencies buy zero-emission or low-emission buses, we’re cleaning the air, protecting public health, and paving the way toward the future of transportation in our state.”
In addition, Ecology awarded $12 million from the settlement to help 83 school districts across the state buy 336 low-emission school buses. The Lake Washington School District (LWSD) and Northshore School District (NSD) are among the 83 school districts selected. LWSD is receiving 16 low-emission school buses, NSD is receiving eight.
Volkswagen funding provided about $35,000 each for the cleaner school buses, roughly covering the costs of the clean diesel technology or for upgrading to a clean propane engine.
Both these grants together will cut emissions of nitrogen oxides by 125 tons and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 2,900 tons.
“Our goal for the Volkswagen settlement is to jump-start clean transportation in our state,” Maia Bellon, director of Ecology, said in a release. “We’re excited to start putting this funding to work, and you can expect big things in the months ahead.”
The remaining funds from the state settlement will be used to help state agencies buy more electric vehicles and support buying cleaner diesel trucks at Washington’s public ports. The Washington Legislature directed how the state settlement should be awarded, and Ecology worked with a steering committee, the Legislature and the public to develop a plan prioritizing projects from the federal settlement.