Scott Seeks Input on Settlement Spending

Published: 11/30/2017 11:17:13 PM
Modified: 11/30/2017 11:17:23 PM

Montpelier — Gov. Phil Scott announced on Wednesday a plan for spending $18.6 million from a historic settlement with German automaker VW over fraudulent “clean diesel” emissions claims.

The proposal offers few details on how the Scott administration intends to spend the money.

Peter Walke, the deputy secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources, said the administration will take comments on the plan for the next 45 days.

Lawmakers and environmentalists had hoped the money would go toward electric school buses, and feared the Scott administration would use it to simply subsidize “clean diesel” purchases.

A news conference on the settlement held on Wednesday did little to assuage those concerns.

Walke and others offered so little information that multiple reporters asked what in the plan wasn’t already known.

“It’s really about trying to alert the general public that we want feedback, and we want to initiate this as soon as possible,” Scott said. “We’re just looking to get moving on this initiative.”

Environmental advocates said the administration didn’t offer the public a lot of information to comment upon.

“I was hoping for more detail than what was provided,” Vermont Public Interest Research Group’s Sarah Wolfe said.

The Agency of Natural Resources plans to use 15 percent of the money for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

The rest of the money would be used to upgrade diesel equipment, or to replace existing diesel equipment with electric vehicles.

The monies would be allocated among the following broad categories of vehicles: 43 percent would go to upgrading or replacing old on-road heavy-duty diesel trucks; 31 percent would be spent to upgrade or replace non-road diesel equipment.

Eleven percent of the monies would be used to upgrade or replace diesel-powered locomotive and marine vessel equipment.

According to the plan, the VW settlement funds will be used to “demonstrate market viability of all-electric or other ... alternatively-fueled heavy-duty and transit vehicles” while reducing certain pollutants “in the most cost-effective way possible.”

Scott said he doesn’t consider electric school buses cost-effective.

“I just want to caution everyone ... we’re talking $19 million, which is a lot of money, but the buses in particular are very expensive — hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece,” he said. “When you do the math, and you start to figure out how many buses we actually have in Vermont, it won’t go far, so we have to be cautious as we move forward and be sure to spread it around as best we can.”

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