Texas is poised to receive $209 million as its share of the Volkswagen (VW) State Environmental Mitigation Trust for violations of the Clean Air Act.
The VW Trust specifies that monies must be spent on specific new projects to improve the state’s air quality by reducing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions caused by VW’s fraud. This money and its NOx reductions cannot be credited toward the State Implementation Plan (SIP) to meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Air Act, which is largely funded at the state level through the Texas Emission Reduction Plan (TERP). The VW Trust money is intended to, environmentally, make the state whole by cleaning the air of illegal pollutants that should never have entered Texas airspace. On the other hand, TERP is intended to improve the state’s air quality as indexed by NAAQS when the SIP was authorized.
The primary focus of the VW Trust is to reduce mobile source emissions (vehicles). To achieve that goal, the Trust has designated 10 specific categories where the monies may be applied, including:
Class 8 Local Freight Trucks and Port Drayage Trucks
Class 4-8 School, Shuttle or Transit Buses
Ocean Going Vessels Shorepower
Class 4-7 Local Freight Trucks
Airport Ground Support Equipment
Forklifts and Port Cargo Handling Equipment
Ferries and Tugs
Light Duty Zero Emission Vehicle Supply Equipment
Diesel Emission Reduction (DERA) Option
Evident within these categories is a concerted effort to remove older, high NOx engines from the state. This can be done through engine replacements or retrofits with alternative fuel technologies such as electric, propane, natural gas and biodiesel. An example of how the VW Trust can promote low NOx technologies, is that it authorizes up to 15% of the fund can be spent on electronic vehicle charging infrastructure, which is particularly inadequate along high use corridors and evacuation routes.
VW Trust monies can be applied to public and private sector projects. Public sector projects may be fully funded by the Trust, while private sector projects will contain a cost sharing formula.
Governor Greg Abbott has designated the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) as the lead agency to administer the funds. The money is available for both public and private-sector projects. It must be spent in a three- to 10-year window. TCEQ is in the initial phase of the state’ mitigation plan development, and welcomes recommendations. TCEQ plans to release a plan in the second half of 2018.
by Karen Reagan
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