Vermont Business Magazine In partnership with an interagency working group, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) released the draft Beneficiary Mitigation Plan (BMP) for how to spend the $18.7 million Vermont will receive as a beneficiary of an Environmental Mitigation Trust funded by the car manufacturer Volkswagen (VW). ANR is asking Vermonters to evaluate the draft plan during an extended public comment period with an eye to how to prioritize projects. ANR will also hold a public meeting to discuss the use of these funds.
In 2015, VW admitted to installing software in over 500,000 diesel passenger cars designed to cheat motor vehicle emission standards by allowing excess nitrogen oxides (NOx) into the air. Because of the large number of affected VW diesel vehicles on Vermont roads, the state is receiving a relatively significant share of the settlement between the U.S. EPA and VW.
Funds will be used to mitigate the harm caused by the excess NOx released by VW vehicles and will go toward projects that reduce NOx emissions by replacing or repowering diesel vehicles with cleaner, innovative technologies. Investments will aim to reduce NOx emissions from mobile sources in the most cost-effective way possible; demonstrate market viability of all-electric or alternative fuel heavy-duty and transit vehicles that mitigate NOx; and maximize public and private investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
The draft BMP proposes spending 15 percent of Vermont's total allocation -- the maximum allowed under the Trust -- toward the purchase and installation of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure to support EV travel. Given that motor vehicles are the largest source of air pollutants in Vermont, this proposal will decrease air contaminant emissions and increase the number of EVs on Vermont roads.
“Planning and building effective projects with the use of these funds will have a significant impact on our future and the health of our environment,” said Governor Phil Scott. “I appreciate the ongoing work to invest these funds in efforts designed to drive down emissions, increase efficiency and reduce pollution."
The remaining 85 percent of the funds must be put toward any of the other nine project categories eligible to be funded by the Environmental Mitigation Trust. These eligible categories include repowering or replacing certain heavy-duty diesel trucks, buses, and locomotives, repowering or replacing certain forklifts and airport ground support equipment, and repowering certain ferries. Funds cannot be spent on any other projects than those listed as eligible under the Environmental Mitigation Trust Agreement between the U.S. EPA and VW. Each project funded must show a net NOx emission reduction benefit, and may also result in many co-benefits, such as a reduction in greenhouse gases, harmful particulate matter, and other air contaminants.
Vermont’s allocation of $18.7 million as a beneficiary of the VW Environmental Mitigation Trust is separate from and in addition to a previous settlement of $4.2 million secured by ANR and the Vermont Attorney General’s Office between Vermont and VW for violations of state motor vehicles emissions regulations. That historic $4.2 million settlement, the largest ever for an environmental violation in Vermont, will be deposited into Vermont’s General Fund.
ANR is leading the interagency team made up of the Agency of Transportation, the Department of Buildings and General Services, the Vermont Department of Health, the Public Service Department, and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, which prepared the draft BMP. This Plan proposes how the $18.7 million dollars may be implemented to reduce NOx emissions statewide, as well as project priorities and the percentage of funds that could go toward certain eligible project categories.
ANR is asking Vermonters to share feedback and ideas for implementing these funds by providing public comments on the draft plan. The public comment period will be from November 29 to January 13, and comments can be submitted at http://dec.vermont.gov/air-quality/vw.
Once the draft plan is finalized, ANR will submit the BMP to the Trustee overseeing the Environmental Mitigation Trust, and begin a program to award funds to eligible projects.
The trustee makes one third of the $18.7 million available to Vermont in each of the first three years, but Vermont has ten years to allocate the full amount to projects. Additional information about how applicants can apply for project funds will be available soon.
Brian Shupe, Executive Director of Vermont Natural Resources Council, said in response to the settlement:
"The $18.7 million in VW Mitigation Trust funds present an exciting opportunity for Vermont to move toward a cleaner transportation system. Done right, we can reduce energy and greenhouse gas emissions while also improving public health and strengthening our communities. It’s important to invest these one-time funds in clean, fossil-fuel free technologies - like electric school and transit busses, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Strategic investments will help us leap forward at this crucial moment — investing in “clean diesel” will not. Though eligible for funding, “clean" diesel is not clean, and it squanders a good opportunity to use these funds to create a more clean, 21st century transportation system."
Public comment period:
Starts: November 29, 2017
Ends: January 13, 2018
Source: 11.29.2017. The Agency of Natural Resources dec.vermont.gov/air-quality/vw