Pennsylvania to get $110 million to offset pollution from VW cheating scandal

Pennsylvania is slated to receive more than $110 million to reduce air pollution from vehicles, ferries and other diesel-powered machines under the terms of a settlement with Volkswagen over the car company’s emissions-cheating scheme.

The Pennsylvania-directed money will come from $2.7 billion Volkswagen must pay into a mitigation trust fund to make up for excess nitrogen oxides pollution released by the roughly 500,000 rigged 2.0-liter Volkswagen and Audi diesel vehicles nationwide.

Although the federal court handling the case approved the settlement on Oct. 25, the air pollution mitigation aspects of the agreement are less well known than the $10 billion worth of related buybacks and payments that Volkswagen must offer owners of the affected diesels as compensation and incentives to get the polluting vehicles off the road.

It is also separate from $2 billion Volkswagen must invest to promote the use of zero-emitting vehicles like electric cars.

At a citizens advisory board meeting this week, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection officials described the early stages of their plans to use the money, which will be handled by a federally designated trustee and allocated to specific types of projects that replace high-emitting diesels with cleaner technology.

Eligible projects will include retrofitting or replacing things like local freight trucks, school and public transit buses, railroad switching locomotives, ferries, forklifts and ground support equipment at airports.

DEP intends to develop an overall plan that will serve as a rough guide for how to allocate the state’s funds and publish it for public comment sometime in the late spring, agency officials said. The structural plan will be based primarily on maximizing emissions reductions, but other factors will also be considered. “Certainly, we’d like to spread some of the dollars across a number of industries,” Alexandra Chiaruttini, DEP’s chief counsel, said.

Each state’s share of the money in the mitigation trust is primarily based on the number of affected Volkswagen cars registered there. Pennsylvania is slated to get the fifth-highest amount, after California, Texas, Florida and New York. More than 23,000 of the rigged 2.0-liter diesels were sold in Pennsylvania, DEP officials said.

The German automaker was discovered last year to have installed software in cars it marketed as “clean” diesels that sensed when emissions tests were being conducted and ran cleaner than they do during normal operations on the road.

As a result, cars from model year 2009 to 2015 that were outfitted with the so-called defeat devices release between 9 and 40 times the amount of nitrogen oxides they are allowed to emit.

Nitrogen oxides contribute to the formation of soot and smog, which are damaging to respiratory and cardiovascular health.

Laura Legere:

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