From 2009 to 2016, Volkswagen cheated on emissions tests. In 2016, they were forced to pay $2.9 billion into a trust for states, tribes, and Puerto Rico to mitigate the environmental damage they caused. Minnesota’s share of that settlement is $47 million, which will be spent over three phases and administered by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The settlement allows money to be spent in two ways: reducing emissions from diesel vehicles and expanding electric charging infrastructure.
Phase 1 of the funding has been allocated, and not well. Instead of investing in electric vehicles, the MPCA has allocated money to buying more fossil fuel vehicles. Settlement money has funded 111 new school buses. None of them are electric, despite the fact that children are most at risk for health problems from air pollution. Diesel pollution is a carcinogen, triggers asthma attacks, and causes heart and respiratory disease. It concentrates inside buses, exposing children to anywhere from 23 to 46 times the safe limit. Buying more diesel buses ensures that our children will be breathing polluted, dangerous air for the next 20 years and misses an opportunity to create healthy and safe communities.
We need zero-emission vehicles. Pollution from transportation is the biggest national contributor to climate change. Combustion vehicles that use diesel, propane, or compressed natural gas pollute our air, cost more over the long term, and are outdated fast. Right now, zero-emission, electric buses emit a third to half of the pollution of diesel buses. Even better: when charged on renewable energy, they don’t pollute at all. As our energy grid gets cleaner, so do electric buses. Combustion buses just keep on polluting.
MPCA is shaping phase 2 now. In this phase, half of the overall $47 million will be allocated. MPCA is accepting public comment until August 16, 2019. Now is our chance to make sure we invest in the future instead of buying obsolete fossil fuel vehicles.
By emailing MPCA at http://tiny.cc/VWSettlement, (Deadline Friday August 16th) we can shape the next phase and bring it into line with a clean energy future. The funding for electric vehicle charging in phase 1 is necessary and should be continued, and our school bus replacements should be the best we can get—zero-emission.
Together, we can make a clean energy future. Thanks for standing up for healthy communities, protecting our climate, and making a better world for future generations.