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NGVAmerica Applauds Colorado VW Mitigation Plan

NGVAmerica applauds the State of Colorado for its development of a draft Volkswagen settlement environmental mitigation plan that focuses on maximizing emission benefits for its citizens and significantly increases the use of clean alternative fuel technologies like natural gas vehicles.

On August 28, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released a draft plan that outlines how the state intends to spend $68.7 million in settlement funds resulting from the Volkswagen “clean diesel” lawsuit.

“Colorado is to be commended for developing a smart plan and for being one of the first states to hold public workshops to solicit citizen input on how best to utilize VW settlement funds to improve air quality,” said Daniel Gage, NGVAmerica President.  “Investing in commercially-available natural gas vehicle technology is the most cost-effective way to fully maximize nitrogen oxide reductions in both public and private fleets.”

Colorado’s draft plan targets a mix of different types of eligible projects with significant emphasis on replacing older, dirtier on-road trucks and buses with new, cleaner alternative fuel vehicles.  The plan correctly focuses on the problem at hand, which is excess nitrogen oxide emissions, and addresses emissions that affect public health through encouraging cost-effective solutions.

NGV advocates are particularly pleased to see that the plan provides a level playing field for all alternative fuels.  The program also maximizes the chances for success by matching the VW funds with other available incentive funding and using existing funding mechanisms to limit administrative costs.

NGVAmerica encourages other states looking to develop environmental mitigation plans to take a close look at Colorado’s. Nationwide, a total of $2.9 billion has been set aside for states to address the thousands of tons of excess nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution generated by non-compliant diesel vehicles.  The terms of the agreements reached by the states, the U.S. government, and Volkswagen set broad guidelines for how the funds are to be used and establish specific types of projects that are eligible for funding.  The settlement requires states to solicit input and develop mitigation plans that spell out how they plan to use the VW funds.  The plans must be approved by an independent trustee before funding is released to the states.

The settlement targets environmental funding for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and equipment because that is the most cost-effective way to offset the offending emissions.  To reduce harmful emissions and address public health, the settlement rightly focuses on heavy-duty vehicles, not light-duty vehicles, because dollar-for-dollar there is no better way to offset emissions of nitrogen oxide emissions.  In many urban areas, large diesel vehicles contribute a disproportionate share of emissions that contribute to air pollution.  It is far easier and cheaper to encourage businesses and government fleets to remove large, older and dirtier diesel vehicles from the roads than it would be to pay individual consumers to remove what would have to be millions of light-duty vehicles from the road to reduce the same level of pollution.  This is why the settlement among other things targets funds for replacing Class 4 – 8 diesel powered trucks and buses.  The funds are to be used to retire older, dirtier vehicles and replace them with new, cleaner vehicles.

Current natural gas vehicle technology is so pure that it produces emissions that are 50 – 90 percent cleaner than federal standards.  Dollar for dollar, natural gas vehicles offer the cleanest and most economical choice for state officials looking to target environmental mitigation funds.

NGVAmerica encourages communities to look at all available alternative fuel options and select the one that maximizes the air quality benefit.  If they do so, it is confident that they will find that natural gas vehicles are a winner.