PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island’s money from the Volkswagen AG diesel fuel emissions scandal settlement will be used to pay for electric buses and to build electric vehicle charging stations, Gov. Gina M. Raimondo announced Thursday.
Volkswagen had created software that was designed to defraud Environmental Protection Agency emissions limits by altering vehicles’ emissions during EPA testing. As a part of the settlement, states were eligible to receive funds to pay for part of the cost of projects to reduce diesel emissions from vehicles and install electric-vehicle infrastructure.
The $14.4 million portion of the federal settlement was earmarked for Rhode Island, with the amount being distributed in each state proportionate to the number of offending vehicles on its roads. Approximately 3,000 Volkswagen cars in Rhode Island had software that defrauded diesel emissions tests.
Following the discovery of the company’s misconduct, Volkswagen agreed to pay $14.7 billion in criminal penalties, civil penalties and settlements.
The governor proposed a Beneficiary Management Plan, which calls for a 10-year period for mitigation projects to improve air quality in the state. The project will be led by the R.I. Department of Environmental Management, which drafted the BMP in conjunction with the R.I. Office of Energy Resources.
Under the BMP, $10.7 million from the settlement will be used to replace approximately 20 retiring diesel buses with all-electric zero-emission vehicles. Funds will also be used to install charging infrastructure related to the electric buses.
RIPTA estimates that the total bus project will cost an approximate $23.2 million, with an estimated $19.8 million for the purchase of electric buses and $3.4 million for bus leasing, some infrastructure and administrative costs. The project cost also contains variables such as what the buses will end up costing each, although they are estimated to cost about $988,000 each (roughly $365,000 more than a diesel bus), variability in electricity costs and variability in fleet management when the electric fleet is integrated with the larger bus system.
“RIPTA is committed to exploring and employing technology that will allow Rhode Islanders to experience the benefits of clean transportation, both on and off the bus,” Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, who will become the R.I. Public Transit Authority’s new CEO on June 1, said in a statement. “Electric buses are already on the road in other states, demonstrating both fiscal and environmental benefits. Our buses will contribute to cleaner air and less noise. This effort serves as a concrete example of Rhode Island’s commitment to lead by example in transitioning toward an emissions-free public transit system – a critical step in combating climate change and improving air quality.”
In fall 2018, three such buses will be leased for use as part of RIPTA while 16 to 20 permanent additions to the fleet will enter service in 2021.
The BMP also provides $1.5 million to develop a DC Fast Charging station network in Rhode Island to add 15 to 30 electric-vehicle charging stations around the Interstate 95 corridor in 2020.
Approximately $2.2 million will be split among RIPTA, DEM and OER for administrative expenditures associated with implementing the mitigation projects.
Rhode Island will be entitled to request one-third of the total $14.4 million, approximately $4.8 million, in the first year of the program or $9.6 million during the first two years.
An information session on the proposed BMP will be held on Thursday, May 17, from 4-6 p.m. at Rhode Island College.
Public comments, which will be accepted through June 11 on the proposed mitigation plan for Rhode Island’s $14.4 million share of the federal Volkswagen settlement, can be submitted via email to Allison.Callahan@dem.ri.gov.
Chris Bergenheim is the PBN web editor.