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August 15, 2017

MDOT seeks input on how to spend $21M from Volkswagen settlement

Courtesy / Maine Department of Transportation
Courtesy / Maine Department of Transportation
Maine Department of Transportation's draft plan on how to use the state's $21 million share of the Volkswagen settlement to lower nitrogen oxide emissions prioritizes projects deemed as having the greatest potential for improving air quality in the state.

Maine Department of Transportation is taking public comments on a draft plan that would use the state's $21 million share of the Volkswagen settlement to lower nitrogen oxide emissions by funding projects deemed as having the greatest potential for improving air quality in the state.

Envisioned uses of the funding include expanding infrastructure to support greater use of electric vehicles, lowering emissions from ports and rail yards and replacing older diesel-powered vehicles with new less-polluting vehicles that could be powered by alternate fuels or electric engines.

"The primary goal of the plan is to improve and protect ambient air quality by implementing eligible mitigation projects that will: 1) Achieve significant and sustained cost-effective reductions in NOx emissions from vehicles, engines and equipment in terms of annual tons of reductions; 2) Expedite deployment of electric vehicle infrastructure to support adoption of zero emission and near-zero emission vehicles and engines," according to the draft available on MDOT's website.

As much as 40% of Maine's share would be allocated to eligible port projects identified by the MDOT's Multimodal Planning Division.

"The ports and their associated rail yards contribute disproportionately to air pollution in Maine risking exposure to levels of air pollution that contribute to health problems," the draft plan stated. "The vessels, port cargo equipment and drayage trucks have high baseline NOx and diesel particulate emissions. Repowering port tugboats, replacing cargo equipment, and drayage trucks with engines that meet current EPA emission standards is a cost-effective method to reduce nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions. These investments provide improvements to air quality and health benefits to the many people who live near and work at ports. Updating cargo equipment also improves the efficiency of movement of goods and port operations which are important to Maine's economic development."

The state's $21 million is part of the $14.7 billion settlement approved by a U.S. District Court judge last fall after Volkswagen admitted putting devices in some of its diesel vehicles that allowed it to "cheat" on emissions tests.

The settlement includes $10 billion for vehicle buy-back and compensation to consumers, $2.7 billion allocated to the states for mitigation of excess NOx emissions and $1.2 billion directed toward a national Zero Emission Vehicle plan to improve infrastructure, access and education to support and advance zero emission (i.e., fuel cell and electric) vehicles.

MDOT plans to host public meetings in late summer and early fall to solicit comments on the draft plan.

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