The Indiana Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund Committee selected the first round of proposals that will receive millions of dollars in funding for nitrogen oxide pollution offset projects.
The committee met July 23 in Indianapolis and approved funding for 34 proposals from municipalities and private industry from across the state. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management says the selected applicants and funding amounts will be finalized in early August.
The 11-member committee was established by executive order in 2017 to disburse more than $40 million in Volkswagen settlement funds.
Volkswagen AG was ordered to pay $14.7 billion to settle allegations that the company installed software in 590,000 diesel vehicles sold in the U.S. that would disable emission controls under normal use and turn them on only when the vehicle was being tested.
The software resulted in thousands of tons of nitrous oxide emissions being released into the air that exceeded regulated limits. Nitrous oxide contributes to the formation of harmful smog and soot, which is linked to adverse respiratory and cardiovascular health effects and premature death.
The company was ordered to use $10 billion of the settlement money to buy back or modify diesel vehicles it sold and $2 billion on zero emission vehicle infrastructure and programs.
The rest of the money, or about $2.7 billion, would be used to set up an independently administered environmental mitigation trust program to be distributed among the 50 states, tribes, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. The amount each received would depend on the number of affected vehicles in each jurisdiction.
The state of Indiana was allocated $40.9 million, which it will disburse during several rounds of funding.
The committee agreed to give the Bartholomew, Carmel Clay, Delphi and Monroe County school districts $315,000 each to purchase an electric school bus for their respective district.
"(The Carmel Clay School District) is committed to exploring alternative fuel bus options," said Ron Farrand, director of facilities and transportation for the Carmel Clay School District. "We currently have 24 propane powered buses and feel having this electric bus as a pilot program will provide a valuable resource for us and other districts with the same commitment."
The committee also approved proposal requests from 12 school districts to purchase nonelectric buses, some of which would be powered by traditional diesel fuel.
Committee member Bill Beranek asked whether funding traditional buses would increase pollution. IDEM senior environmental manager Shawn Seals said some entities have to accept new versions of older technology due to infrastructure limitations.
“In a large part, it could be that the infrastructure to do something different just isn’t there for them or they don’t have a partner that can help them pay,” said Seals. “A 10-year-old school bus is notably less clean than a new school bus. So, there is an environmental benefit to it. Is it as great as the others? No, it isn’t.”
The committee also approved proposals for a fleet of 20 long-haul compressed natural gas vehicles in Vanderburgh County, and electric and CNG transit buses in Lake, Allen and Tippecanoe counties. CNG refuse haulers for the city of Seymour, Muncie Sanitary District and Homewood Disposal in Lake County and short haul diesel, electric and CNG proposals for several private and public entities were also approved.
The committee will meet again February to solicit proposals for a second round of funding.