How to spend $30 million: DEQ announces proposal for first phase of VW settlement fund

(Photo: NC Department of Transportation)

Range Anxiety is real, especially in parts of North Carolina — such as Scotland Neck, Elizabethtown and Leasburg — that lack a public electric-car charging station. Now the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality proposes spending $4.6 million next year to alleviate that anxiety by upgrading and expanding the state’s network of electric-vehicle charging stations.

The money comes from the first phase of the state’s $92 million VW settlement fund, established by a federal consent order requiring Volkswagen to pay $2.7 billion for environmental mitigation after investigators found the car company had falsified emissions tests. The money was then apportioned to the states based on their number of registered vehicles.

States can use their funds only for projects that reduce nitrogen oxides emissions. These pollutants contribute to smog and acid rain, and can cause breathing problems.   Diesel trucks, school and public transit buses, and freight-switching locomotives are common sources of NoX, as its known; replacing or retrofitting them can reduce those emissions.

A maximum of 15 percent of the funds can be allotted to electric vehicle infrastructure. As the result of public comments on the settlement plan, DEQ allocated the maximum  to include more charging stations along major transit routes, such as highways, and at “points of interest.”

There are 1,152 public charging stations in North Carolina, according to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, roughly the same number as in Virginia and Illinois. California has the most charging stations — more than 16,000 — because it also ranks first in the nation in the electric-vehicle sales: at least 258,000 since 2011.

Although electric vehicles make up a minute portion of North Carolina’s overall market share — 0.49 percent, according to EVadoption.com — they are becoming more popular. From 2016 to 2017, sales of electric vehicles increased 23 percent in North Carolina, from 1,670 to 2,055.

While the EV projects are the shiny, sexy part of the funding, most of the money from Phase 1 — $12.2 million — would pay for mundane, but nonetheless essential upgrades: Replacing old school buses and their noxious diesel engines with newer, low-emissions models.

This is particularly important because school buses often idle and expose children to pollutants.

DEQ plans to allocate the rest of Phase 1 money to these categories:

  • 20 percent or $6 million for transit bus replacements
  • 10 or $3 million for heavy-duty on-road equipment replacement projects
  • And another 10% percent for heavy-duty off-road equipment replacement projects

North Carolina is rolling out its funding cycle in three phases at $30 million each. After a federal trustee approves the plan, eligible organizations — governments, nonprofits and public-private partnerships, can submit their project proposals. DEQ will announce the selections in the spring and summer of 2019.

Public comment on Phase 2 will start in the fall of 2019.


One Comment

  1. Ann Wood

    August 24, 2018 at 9:57 am

    The public has little to no interest, and almost no information about what has happened and is happening with the cruel and duplicitous general assembly. The all or nothing attitude of the gerrymandering Republicans borders on facist tactics
    and history will remember the names of the more egrigously lawless members and their co-horts. There must be
    factual information that gets to the voters by all means possible. I plan to be part of the delivery system.

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