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Ohio EPA Requests Public Input on Volkswagen Settlement
$71.4 million to be directed toward state’s pollution prevention programs
Ohio EPA is asking the public to weigh-in on a plan that will use Ohio’s portion of the Volkswagen consent decree/settlement to offset the effects of diesel emissions. The state’s share of the settlement dollars is anticipated to be $71.4 million over 10 years, and will be directed toward grants and other efforts that can produce the greatest air quality benefits such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) emission reductions, reduced public exposure to the pollutants in diesel exhaust and the promotion of clean vehicle technologies.
In two related settlements, German automaker Volkswagen AG and its subsidiaries have agreed to spend up to $14.7 billion to settle allegations of manipulating emissions tests and deceiving customers. Volkswagen will compensate consumers who purchased or leased 2.0 liter diesel vehicles of model year 2009-2015, related to the use of “defeat devices” during emissions testing. Approximately 15,000 such vehicles were registered in Ohio. In addition, the companies will spend $4.7 billion to mitigate pollution from these cars, and invest in green vehicle technology.
Ohio EPA will prepare and submit a plan to a national Mitigation Trust Fund showing how the state expects to award approximately $15 million per year in grants beginning in 2018. Eligible projects to receive these grants include the repower or replacement of: diesel school, shuttle and transit buses; large and medium trucks; freight switcher locomotives; the repower of ferries and tugboats; airport ground support equipment; forklifts and port cargo handling equipment; and shorepower to enable Great Lakes and oceangoing ships to shut off engines while at berth. A portion of the funds may also be used to install light duty vehicle supply equipment for electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Per the terms of the settlement, state plans must direct funding to areas that bear a disproportionate share of effects of diesel emissions. Based on air quality (Ohio counties of concern due to ozone levels), historical levels of diesel emissions, the locations where the most VW vehicles equipped with “defeat devices” were registered in Ohio, and US EPA’s Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool, Ohio EPA has created a map showing the counties where the Agency believes eligible projects should receive first and secondary priority for the available funds.
The Agency invites early stakeholder comments through December 31, 2016 on this map, mitigation planning, and what percentage of the time diesel fleets operate within these priority counties in order to be eligible for grant funds. Ohio EPA will then draft a state mitigation plan that will be circulated during a formal comment period in spring of 2017. For questions about the grant program, or to be added to the list of “interested parties” who will receive email updates, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Updates will also be posted regularly on the program website.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1972 to consolidate efforts to protect and improve air quality, water quality and waste management in Ohio. Since then, air pollutants dropped by as much as 90 percent; large rivers meeting standards improved from 21 percent to 89 percent; and hundreds of polluting, open dumps were replaced with engineered landfills and an increased emphasis on waste reduction and recycling.