Idaho is set to receive around $17 million from the VW settlement but must first plan how to spend it. VW is required to pay this money because their diesel vehicles emitted up to 40 times the legal limit for nitrous oxides (NOx) over a period of seven years. NOx is one of six major air pollutants listed by the EPA, and excessive amounts in our air can result in environmental and public health issues such as the formation of low-level ozone and smog as well as stresses on our respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
Idaho, through the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), will grant the money to various projects throughout the state that seek to reduce NOx emissions. However, before any money can be spent, DEQ must submit a plan to the trust fund holding the settlement money detailing how they will evaluate and select projects. ICL—along with other environmental, municipal and business groups—is working with DEQ to create that plan.
How Would ICL Spend $17 Million?
Money from the settlement can only fund certain types of projects. These are primarily projects that would retrofit heavy-duty vehicles like trucks and buses, currently powered by diesel engines, with cleaner alternatives. We hope to see an emphasis on converting diesel-powered vehicles over to electric. No other option will result in a greater reduction in NOx—and thus greater protection of public health—than converting diesel-powered vehicles to electric, especially when you consider emissions over the lifespan of a vehicle.
We also want to see DEQ give priority to projects that will improve air quality in areas with sensitive populations or groups that have been disproportionately affected by air pollution. It’s important that funding goes to projects in areas that need it most, such as areas with high concentrations of children, the elderly, or individuals with respiratory illnesses such as COPD.
Lastly, we’re encouraging DEQ to allocate money towards building electric-vehicle charging stations across Idaho. According to the rules of the settlement, 15% of the money is the maximum amount that can be spent on infrastructure, and we want all of that to go towards electric vehicle infrastructure.
Once Idaho has submitted their plan they can begin accepting applications for projects. We’ve asked DEQ to provide details on their timeline for reviewing potential projects. We’re also working to set up a system to notify interested parties when projects have been selected. If you’re interested in learning more, contact me or check out DEQ’s webpage on the VW settlement.