Dozens of Washington school districts and public transit fleets will receive a total of $22 million to buy electric or low-emission buses as part of the state’s $28.4 million settlement from the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal.
The Washington Department of Ecology, which oversees the settlement funds, awarded $9.4 million to purchase 19 electric transit buses in Lewis, Benton, Spokane, Clark, Pierce, Snohomish and King counties.
Those grants follow on another $12 million from the settlement Ecology gave to help 83 school districts across the state buy 336 low-emission school buses. Together, these grants will cut emissions of nitrogen oxides by 125 tons and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 2,900 tons.
“Putting cleaner buses on the road is an important mile marker in investing these funds,” said Governor Jay Inslee. “By helping local agencies buy zero-emission or low-emission buses, we’re cleaning the air, protecting public health, and paving the way toward the future of transportation in our state.”
Volkswagen funding provided about $500,000 for each of the 19 transit buses – an amount intended to cover the difference between a standard diesel bus and a zero-emission electric bus – and $35,000 each for the cleaner school buses – roughly covering the costs of the clean diesel technology or for upgrading to a clean propane engine.
“Our goal for the Volkswagen settlement is to jump-start clean transportation in our state,” said Maia Bellon, Ecology’s director. “We’re excited to start putting this funding to work, and you can expect big things in the months ahead.”
In 2019, Ecology will begin making awards from the state’s $112.7 million share of the federal Volkswagen settlement. The federal settlement funds will help to expand electric vehicle charging stations and buy zero-emission vehicles for public fleets, including additional electric transit and school buses, and invest in electrifying Washington’s ferry system.
The remaining funds from the state settlement will be used to help state agencies buy more electric vehicles and support buying cleaner diesel trucks at Washington’s public ports.
The Washington Legislature directed how the state settlement should be awarded, and Ecology worked with a steering committee, the Legislature and the public to develop a plan prioritizing projects from the federal settlement.
Both the state and federal settlements stem from the discovery that the automaker Volkswagen illegally installed software on its diesel cars that activated emission controls only when it detected the emissions were being tested.
In ordinary driving, the software allowed the engines to emit as much as 40 times the legal limit for nitrogen oxides, violating the state and federal Clean Air Acts and threatening public health.