CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Sierra: Volkswagen’s Cheating Scandal Could Have a Silver Lining

August 29, 2018

Volkswagen’s Cheating Scandal Could Have a Silver Lining 
By Edward Humes

 

To the delight of environmental organizations and child health advocates, school bus replacement has emerged as an early favorite in a number of state plans. Tamara Dzubay, a clean energy specialist at the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago, has been working with school districts in the Midwest for the past two years, encouraging them to apply for the VW funds. Dzubay says she and her colleagues looked for diesel-replacement projects that delivered the most in terms of pollution reduction, public health effects, cost-effectiveness over the life cycle of a vehicle, benefits to a vulnerable population (the VW-funded projects are supposed to have a social and environmental justice component, favoring populations that have historically suffered most from emissions), and market-transformation potential. She says that nothing hits all those criteria better than the electrification of the nation’s 480,000 mostly diesel-powered school buses.

“Electrifying school buses really stood out as the best opportunity,” she says. “It’s the largest fleet, more than two times that of transit buses and rail combined—it’s actually the largest category of mass transportation. And it’s also transporting the most vulnerable population. Kids are most susceptible to the negative health impacts of diesel pollution because their lungs are still developing. Those that ride school buses are exposed every single day.”

The market for electric school buses has lots of room to grow. Nationwide, there are now only 160 electric buses, at a cost per vehicle of $230,000 (including charging system) versus $109,000 for diesel buses. Dzubay says the electric school bus market is where electric transit buses were seven years ago. Increased sales have driven transit-bus prices down by 40 percent, so their lifetime costs are now several hundred thousand dollars lower than those of their diesel counterparts. Significant investments of VW money in electric school buses should drive their prices down in the same way, Dzubay says. And even at current prices, electric buses become cheaper than diesel 12 years into their 16-year life spans.

Clean buses could be even cheaper if the states coordinated their purchases, but spending has been fractured. Illinois plans to dedicate $10 million of its $109 million share to electric school buses; Missouri is setting aside $12 million out of $41 million for cleaner buses, with no fuel type specified. Oklahoma will spend 20 percent of its $21 million on nondiesel buses. California, which gets the largest payout from the mitigation trust—$423 million—is devoting $130 million to zero-emission buses of all types, with school buses receiving up to half that amount, according to the state’s draft plan.

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Daily Herald: In Transit: App for Route 53 Extension Feedback Takes Flak

September 3, 2018

In Transit: App for Route 53 Extension Feedback Takes Flak 
By Marni Pyke

If the Founding Fathers had used Poll Everywhere at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia — would the final result be a better Constitution?

It might have depended on how fast they could type.

Illinois tollway consultants are using Poll Everywhere, a web-based audience participation system, at meetings with a group of local officials and others advising the agency on whether to extend Route 53 into Lake County.

The question has roiled Lake County for years, dividing residents over weighty problems like right of way, traffic, pollution and cost.

At a meeting Thursday, those divisions extended to use of the smartphone app to conduct the meeting, with some opponents of the new highway saying the technology is silencing their voices.

“I am extremely frustrated with how the tollway has engaged the stakeholders overall,” said Mayor Joseph Mancino of Hawthorn Woods, which could be bisected by a Route 53 extension. “Not only is the application unstable at best, it severely limits our input and quite frankly is a bit insulting to the stakeholders who are forced to use it.”

The tollway “wants to be able to parse through and say, ‘this is what people said,’ but that’s not what you do at a meeting where you want to have stakeholder participation,” stakeholder and Environmental Law and Policy Center chief Howard Learner said.

 

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Ohio Nuclear Plant Decommissioning, Clean Car Standards, Route 53 Tollway Extension in Lake County, IL., & EPA Ozone Non-Attainment Standards

ELPC Breaking News – Actions and Decisions on Multiple Fronts – Ohio Nuclear Plant Decommissioning, Clean Car Standards, Route 53 Tollway Extension in Lake County, IL, and EPA Ozone Non-Attainment Standards

To ELPC Colleagues and Supporters:  There is a lot happening – fast – at ELPC.  Four important actions yesterday on different fronts.  ELPC’s talented staff is drinking out of a firehose and playing to win.

  1. Good News on ELPC petition to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission challenging First Energy Solutions’ nuclear decommissioning shortfalls as the company is in bankruptcy. We just received word that ELPC’s 2.206 citizen petition cleared the first step of the NRC review process. The NRC’s Petition Review Board (PRB) met and decided to accept our petition for review.   Notably, they accepted ELPC’s petition in entirety—no parts of it were rejected.  The next step is for the PRB to substantively review the petition and come up with recommendations for action, which it will send to the Director.  The Director ultimately makes the final decision on what actions, if any, the NRC will take against the licensee.   Kudos to ELPC attorneys Andrene Dabaghi and Margrethe Kearney.

 

  1. Bad News:  The Trump Administration announced its misguided attempt to rollback federal clean cars standards and (probably unconstitutional) attempt to constrain California’s and 12 other states’ “waiver” to adopt strong state standards.  As the transportation sector has passed the energy sector for carbon pollution in the United States, the federal and state fuel efficiency standards are vital to save consumers money at the gas pump, drive technological innovation in vehicle manufacturing to keep American manufacturing competitive, gain manufacturing jobs of the future for American workers, reduce American imports of foreign oil and avoid pollution.  ELPC will be among the lead groups nationally challenging the proposed new weaker DOT/EPA clean car standards in both the court of law (comments to US Dept. of Transportation and, then, likely litigation in the federal courts) and in the court of public opinion.  Please see ELPC press release criticizing this Trump Administration regulatory rollback.  (“Trump Administration Reboot of Fuel Economy and Pollution Standards is a Misguided Step Backwards While Global Competitors Keep Moving Forward”).   ELPC Senior Law Fellow Janet McCabe and ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner will be doing a “breaking news” briefing via conference call for ELPC colleagues, donors and friends today at 10:00 am. (Register to join the briefing if you’d like.)

 

  1. ELPC and ten environmental and civic group partners are fighting back and winning against the Illinois Tollway Authority’s attempt to short-circuit and play “hide the ball” on the NEPA Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process for the economically unsupportable and environmentally destructive Route 53 Tollway Extension in Lake County. As ELPC Board Chair Harry Drucker put it, this “zombie” bad tollway proposal keeps coming back.  While the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning is moving to put on the brakes by downgrading the proposed Route 53 Tollway Extension in Lake County from a priority project to non-priority status, the Illinois Tollway Authority is spending $25 million to accelerate the EIS process.  On Wednesday, ELPC attorneys Howard Learner and Rachel Granneman and partners sent a letter to the Illinois Tollway Authority challenging the legality of the EIS process, and yesterday, the Illinois Tollway Authority backed off, saying that would extend the comment period on the EIS scoping comments to late September.  Please see Greg Hinz’s good article in Crain’s Chicago Business here and pasted below.

 

  1. New ELPC Litigation to Protect Healthier Clean Air in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin:  ELPC and the Respiratory Health Association (RHA) yesterday sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, challenging the EPA’s final ozone air health standard rule, published in June 2018, that excluded certain areas in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin from the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis “non-attainment” areas that have smog levels above the 2015 ozone standard.  ELPC’s press release explains:  “EPA has sadly disregarded the plain facts and sound science in making these designations,” said Howard Learner, ELPC’s Executive Director. “EPA has not followed the letter or the spirit of the Clean Air Act and has excluded areas involving unhealthy air quality for millions of Midwesterners.  Cleaner air is essential to public health and a strong economy in our region.”   The Clean Air Act requires EPA to designate non-attainment areas in counties where air quality fails to meet federal health standards for ozone and where local air pollution contribute to unhealthy air quality. The states must then take steps to reduce emissions that cause smog.  In 2015, EPA issued a more protective ozone air health standard, which triggered a process to identify violating areas so that clean air planning could begin.  In the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis areas, EPA originally proposed more comprehensive non-attainment areas, but then excluded certain areas in its June 2018 final decision in response to opaque last-minute requests from Governors Rauner and Walker.  ELPC attorneys Scott Strand and Rachel Granneman are litigating this case with policy and technical engagement from Janet McCabe.  Please see Michael Hawthorne’s good article in the Chicago Tribune here.

ELPC is fully engaged both on offense and defense to protect the Midwest’s environment, public health and vital natural resources.  Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Best wishes, Howard

Howard A. Learner

Executive Director

Environmental Law & Policy Center

 

Trump Administration Reboot of Fuel Economy & Pollution Standards is Misguided Step Backwards While Global Competitors Keep Moving Forward

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Trump Administration Reboot of Fuel Economy and Pollution Standards is a Misguided Step Backwards While Global Competitors Keep Moving Forward

U.S. EPA Acting Administrator Wheeler continuing Pruitt agenda that will cost people more at the gas pump, increase pollution & reduce America’s technological innovation leadership

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

In response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to rewrite the Clean Car Standards, which proposes to freeze fuel economy and emissions standards at 2020 levels through 2026, ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“The Trump Administration’s misguided decision to weaken clean car standards threatens to put U.S. automakers behind in the global competition for cleaner, fuel efficient cars and will hit consumers hard in the wallet when they fuel up,” Learner said. “The standards U.S. EPA and DOT issued in 2012 are driving technological innovation, ensuring that America’s cars use less foreign oil and emit less carbon and other toxic air pollution.

“The existing standards would have saved families up to $122 billion at the pump, saved more than 12 billion barrels of oil and kept 6 billion metric tons of dangerous carbon pollution out of the atmosphere. If left in place, these standards would have continued to drive innovation and job growth across the Midwest and beyond. Trump’s EPA and DOT weakened standards would needlessly put a cleaner environment and our children’s future in the backseat.

“Unfortunately, Acting EPA Administrator Wheeler is following in the faulty footsteps of Scott Pruitt instead of resuming the EPA’s statutory mission to protect public health and the environment. The Trump Administration is turning back the clock on the current clean car standards that drive technological innovation and spur manufacturing jobs of the future for the Midwest auto sector.”

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Energy News Network: Q&A: Midwest Partnership Pushing to Expand EV Infrastructure in Region

July 9, 2018

Q&A: Midwest Partnership Pushing to Expand EV Infrastructure in Region

By Kevin Stark

Charge Up Midwest is a coalition of seven of the Midwest’s largest environmental groups banded together to advocate for electric vehicle deployment across the Midwest.

Rob Kelter, a senior attorney at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, says the partnership — a pooling of legal and advocacy resources — creates an opportunity for a greater impact.

Charge Up is pressing utilities to expand charging infrastructure and advocating for money from the $2.8 billion Volkswagen emissions cheating settlement to be spent on electric school buses and public transit, which can play a key role in kickstarting electric vehicle deployment.“In both commission forums and state legislatures, the environmental community is undermanned,” Kelter said. “We don’t have the resources that we need to always effectively advocate for our policies. And in this situation, with Charge Up Midwest, we are all working together.”

The group includes the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Clean Fuels Ohio, Great Plains Institute, the Ecology Center, and Fresh Energy. (The Energy News Network is an editorially independent publication of Fresh Energy.)

Kelter sat for an interview to discuss the initiative, outline Charge Up’s vision for electric vehicles in the region, and discuss what that could mean for the smart grid. The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Q: The hope with electric vehicles is that they can help balance the grid and be a benefit for everyone. The fear is that utilities won’t be ready for that influx of electric vehicles when they really come on. Are utilities in the Midwest ready for what’s coming?

Right now, we’re nowhere near any kind of number of vehicles on the grid that would cause any kind of problems for the utility systems. In other words, there’s no upgrades needed right now to transformers or the distribution system or anything like that for electric vehicles. And we’re a very long way from that. But, if done right, we don’t think that you’re going to need a whole lot of improvements to the grid as much as you need to develop policies that encourage customers to charge their vehicles at night. We think most people will do that. We do need to make sure that that customers get price signals, where they can get great savings from charging their vehicles off peak.

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Crain’s Detroit Business: DTE Proposes Rate Increases, Electric Vehicle Plan

July 6, 2018

DTE Proposes Rate Increases, Electric Vehicle Plan

By Jay Greene

DTE Energy Co. has filed a $328 million rate request with the Michigan Public Service Commission that includes a $13 million pilot program for electric vehicle charging stations that could be the largest in the Midwest.

The proposed electric rate increases would average 9.1 percent for residential customers, 4.3 percent for many commercial users and 4.5 percent for schools, colleges and universities. The rates, if approved by the commission, would take effect in May 2019.

DTE said it needs the increased rates to continue to improve its distribution and generation system.

If the commission approves DTE’s rate request, an average residential customer’s electric bill may increase by $9.42 per month. For example, a residential customer using 400 kilowatts per month would pay $6.24 more under the new rate plan, or $71.71 per month.

DTE stated that the $328 million rate increase is $196 million lower than it would have been because of federal tax reform.

DTE’s proposed EV pilot — called Charging Forward — includes an investment of $13 million over three years to develop charging stations in residential, commercial and fleet areas; rebates to support some 32 “fast” chargers, 1,000 Level 2 commercial chargers and 2,600 home smart chargers; and customer education.

There also would be a requirement that customers enroll in a rate that changes by time of day to qualify for smart charging rebate.

Robert Kelter, a senior attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago, said the state of Michigan and the MPSC should create policies to encourage DTE and other utilities to set policies that encourage charging cars at night, which could lower electric rates for all.

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PRESS RELEASE: Charge Up Midwest Welcomes DTE Energy Electric Vehicle Pilot Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Judith Nemes

Charge Up Midwest Welcomes DTE Energy Electric Vehicle Pilot Program  

Program could push mass EV adoption, offer huge boost to EV charging infrastructure in Midwest 

Lansing, MI. – The largest electric vehicle charging infrastructure pilot in the Midwest was proposed by DTE Energy today as part of the utility’s latest rate case to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). Environmental organizations across the Midwest welcomed the proposal as a positive step towards making Michigan a clean transportation leader.

“DTE Energy’s Charging Forward proposal will go a long way toward filling the electric vehicle charging infrastructure gaps that create barriers to EV adoption,” said Charles Griffith, Climate and Energy Program Director at the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor. “The proposal also incentivizes EV charging to occur during times of day when there is excess capacity on the grid, helping to reduce costs for all electricity customers and reduce pollution for Michigan residents.”

“The state of Michigan and MPSC need to take charge – pun intended – and make sure smart policies are set that encourage the development of the electric vehicle market,” said Robert Kelter, Senior Attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “If Michigan sets the right policies that motivate customers to charge their cars at night, all Michigan utility customers will benefit from lower rates.”

DTE’s proposed EV pilot includes:

  • $13 million over 3 years, for investments in residential, commercial and fleet EV charging infrastructure
  • Rebates to support approximately 32 “fast” chargers, 1,000 Level 2 commercial chargers and 2,600 home smart chargers
  • Requirement that customers enroll in time-of-use rate to qualify for smart charging rebate
  • Focus on workplace and multi-unit dwelling for Level 2 charging
  • Customer education and outreach program

“Lots of potential electric vehicle customers are locked out of the market because they live in apartment buildings that don’t have a place to plug in, but DTE’s new pilot program will add charging stations where they are sorely needed,” said Max Baumhefner, Senior Attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This program will help those who don’t live in single-family homes access electricity as a cleaner, cheaper alternative to gasoline.”

DTE’s proposal arrived on the heels of the recent $7.5 million Consumers Energy EV pilot program proposal, and AEP Ohio’s $10 million pilot program approved in April by the Ohio Public Utilities Commission. DTE’s service territory currently includes about 10,000 zero-emission vehicle owners, or about double the current number of owners in Consumers Energy’s territory.

“Michigan and the Motor City need to take bold action to put us on a path to a clean car future,” said Sierra Club Associate Attorney Joe Halso. “DTE’s proposal is a step in the right direction.  We would like to see a program that maximizes the public health and electricity grid benefits that we know electric cars can deliver.”

An M.J. Bradley & Associates report commissioned by Charge Up Midwest on the impact of more electric vehicles in Michigan found expanding electric vehicles could save Michigan families, drivers and electricity customers billions of dollars over the next three decades. The report also found there is significant potential for growth for electric vehicles in Michigan.

Read DTE’s proposed plan HERE

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Charge Up Midwest is a partnership of environmental and clean energy organizations actively working to increase electric vehicle deployment throughout the region in Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio. Through Charge Up Midwest, organizations seek to engage with a broad range of stakeholders to support actions that increase investment in electric vehicle infrastructure, create a more resilient and low-carbon grid, expand education of the public and policymakers about the benefits of electric vehicles, and otherwise accelerate the production, sales and access to electric vehicles in the region for all Midwest residents.

Indiana Public Media: Environmentalists, Lawmakers Say No To EPA Rollback Of Clean Car Standards

Environmentalists, Lawmakers Say No To EPA Rollback Of Clean Car Standards

A former Environmental Protection Agency administrator, two Indiana lawmakers, and environmentalists opposed the EPA’s plans to change clean car standards at a press conference Monday. The standards require new cars and light trucks build after 2025 to get about 50 miles to the gallon.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced in April that the agency would consider undoing the Obama-era standards. Opponents say the move would lead to more pollution, higher gas prices, and damage Indiana’s auto industry.

“Not only are we going to see a spike in gas prices, but we’re also going to see more pollution in communities of color,” says Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis).

Indiana University law professor Janet McCabe worked for the EPA during its 2016 review of automakers’ compliance with the clean car standards. She says not even car manufacturers — who have made money on more efficient vehicles — want this rollback.

“That’s one of the biggest bites we can take out of pollution that’s affecting our climate and our health, and now is not the time to dial back,” McCabe says. “The existing standards are achievable and working.”

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, transportation is the largest single source of air pollution in the United States. McCabe says the EPA is expected to come out with a proposal to roll back clean car standards any day now.

The speakers at Monday’s press conference were Cheryl Laux of Central Indiana Moral Mondays, Sen. Taylor, state Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis), Indiana Asthma CoalitionDirector Roni Ford, Indiana NAACP Environmental Justice Chair Denise Abdul Rahman, and Janet McCabe, ELPC Senior Fellow and former acting-assistant administrator of the U.S. EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation under President Barack Obama.

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

Energy News Network: How School Buses Could Help Run Your Air Conditioning

June 12, 2018
How School Buses Could Help Run Your Air Conditioning on Hot Summer Days
By Kevin Stark

Schools are letting out, and that means many yellow buses are headed to storage.

But what if instead of sitting idle for much of the summer, school buses had a seasonal job helping to balance the electric grid?

The state of Illinois is about to test that potential with what environmental groups say could be the start of a transformational investment for both air quality and the electric grid.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to spend $10.8 million of its Volkswagen settlement money on electric school buses, a larger carve out than any other state.

The plan has been cheered by environmental advocates who say the money will benefit the state’s power grid and public health — especially for kids exposed to exhaust from diesel buses — even as critics in the natural gas industry say it would be more cost effective to invest in propane buses.

“The electric school bus component of (Illinois EPA’s) proposal is the element promising the most positive transformation,” said Susan Mudd, senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, speaking at a public comment session hosted by state environmental official in Chicago last month.

She said the money could provide a shot in the arm for electric school buses in Illinois and be enough to bring the buses to several school districts.

As Illinois officials debate how to prepare the grid to transform with electric vehicles, electric school buses present a unique opportunity to strengthen the state’s grid. School buses run on a fixed schedule — children are dropped off at school in the morning and picked up in the afternoon. The rest of the day, buses can be plugged into the grid and serve as batteries.

Aloysius Makalinao, a climate and clean energy fellow for the Natural Resource Defense Council, said that while all electric vehicles offer benefits as grid resources, the case for the buses is unique.

“They can be used as a grid service in times of peaking, especially in the summer when school is out and everyone turns on their air conditioning,” he said.

There are also broad health benefits for children in switching away from diesel buses, which spew nasty exhaust that can accumulate onboard and around nearby schools. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it is a health risk for children, and studies detailing the danger posed by school bus exhaust date back almost 20 years.

Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental health policy for Chicago’s Respiratory Health Association, said the group is happy the agency is dedicating money for electric school buses.

“Children whose lungs are still growing process proportionately more air through their lungs than adults. They are more vulnerable to lung damage and will benefit from this dedicated share of money,” he said.

Michelle Hoppe Villegas attended a session at the James Thompson Center Auditorium in Chicago. She described herself as an education advocate and a resident of the Mid-North District of Chicago, where she lives across the street from Abraham Lincoln Elementary School. She said the best way to make an impact with the money is to transition school buses from diesel to electric.

“I can tell you exactly what it is like to be impacted by diesel school buses,” she said. “The cost of living across the street of the school is exposing my kids to diesel buses idling — it is continuous, long-term exposure.”

In 2016, Volkswagen was ordered to pay a total of $14.7 billion after the company admitted that 11 million of its vehicles were equipped with software programmed to cheat emissions tests. A portion of that money — $108.6 million — was allocated to be spent by the state of Illinois, and the state EPA is the agency charged with crafting a spending plan.

In testimony before the Senate Environment and Conservation Committee of the Illinois General Assembly, Alec Messina, director of the Illinois EPA, explained the decision to invest millions in electric school buses came from a push from environmentalists.

He also said that electric school buses start at $300,000 a piece, which would mean the $10.8 million could buy about three dozen buses, excluding the charging stations, and save the state 2.2 tons of NOx emissions annually.

Last fall, a school district in Minnesota was the first in the Midwest to start using an electric school bus, which cost $325,000 but provided $12,000 in annual savings.

Advocates for propane and natural gas argue that the settlement money should be spent on more cost-effective propane buses. Tony Perkins, chief operating officer of the Propane Education and Research Council, has said that propane powered engines offer the best opportunity to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions at the lowest cost. “The [propane] engine provides the best NOx emissions reduction per dollar spent.”

Makalinao acknowledged that the upfront costs of electric school buses are higher than propane but “in the long term, electric school buses — especially with their grid resource capability — is better overall.”

At least one study by researchers at the University of Delaware found that a fleet of electric school buses with 70-kilowatt on-board chargers could save a suburban school district upwards of $38 million over a typical lifecycle of 14 years.

The Illinois EPA has received at least 1,600 comments and 300 survey responses to its draft plan, and it hosted three public sessions to allow further comment from advocates and residents.

Messina, an appointee of Gov. Bruce Rauner, has said he wants to submit a final plan to the settlement trustee this summer and start funding projects as soon as August, which critics say is rushed in time for the fall election.

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Chronicle Media: Environmental Groups Say IEPA Plan Leaves State, Residents Behind

April 10, 2018
Environmental Groups: IEPA Plan Leaves State, Residents Behind
By Kevin Beese

If you won a lottery jackpot, it is likely that creating electric car charging stations would not be high on your list of priorities.

The same can be said for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which has come into a lottery-type windfall as part of the Volkswagen lawsuit settlement.

While the national settlement allows for as much as 15 percent of a state’s allocated funds to go to electric vehicle infrastructure, the IEPA has opted to go a different route with the $108 million the state is getting from the Clean Air Act civil settlement, much to the chagrin of state-wide environmental groups.

Rebecca Judd, clean energy advocate for the Sierra Club’s Illinois Chapter, noted that Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio are all putting the maximum 15 percent of settlement funds into electric vehicle infrastructure.

“Sierra Club urges Illinois not to get left behind investing in a clean transportation future,” Judd said at a state Senate Environment and Conservation Committee hearing on the settlement funds last week. “The maximum 15 percent of the VW funds should be dedicated to light-duty EV infrastructure, along with additional pollution reduction through electrification of the transportation and public transit sector.

“Illinois EPA must ensure the VW funds are used to protect vulnerable populations and environmental justice communities from the impacts of air pollution by investing in transit agencies and a rapid transition to clean, zero-emission technology.”

The IEPA has proposed that 65 percent of the VW funds go to off-road efforts to reduce air pollution, such as new engines for Metra trains.

The $108 million windfall stems from Volkswagen AG and certain of its North American subsidiaries entering into a multi-billion settlement with the federal government for violations of the Clean Air Act. VW publicly admitted to installing “defeat devices” in certain diesel vehicles causing the vehicles to operate differently during emission testing compared to normal operation, circumventing federal vehicle emission standards.

In its plan for settlement funds, the IEPA proposes:

    • 20 percent of money ($21.7 million) going to on-road projects, such as replacing and repowering trucks and buses with diesel, alternative fuel or electric engines.
    • 10 percent ($10.8 million) for all-electric school buses, replacing diesel buses.
    • 65 percent ($70.6 million) to off-road projects, such as locomotives, ferries and tugs.
    • 5 percent ($5.4 million) for IEPA administrative expenses.

 

Susan Mudd, senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said the IEPA plan does not commit a single dollar to electric vehicle infrastructure. She said the mitigation plan puts short-term gains at the forefront.

“IEPA does not appear to have considered long-term benefits,” Mudd said.

She said by focusing so much money on off-road projects, the IEPA is missing the “immense on-road needs of urban transit riders in Chicago, Metro East and Downstate Illinois.”

“Many of our most vulnerable residents live in the state’s ozone non-attainment areas — Chicago and Metro East,” Mudd said. “IEPA has ignored, predominantly, their transit needs.”

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