Settlement could boost electric cars in Minnesota

Published 9:28 am Monday, January 30, 2017

ST. PAUL — Minnesota is set to receive nearly $47 million under the federal government’s settlement with Volkswagen over its emissions scandal.

The settlement will give the state the chance to eliminate 600 tons of pollution from nitrogen oxides, according to a press release.

Some 9,300 Volkswagen diesels operating in Minnesota have sent 600 tons of nitrogen oxides into the air.

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That contributes to ground-level ozone, which can worsen respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD.

Most of the money must be spent on making diesel vehicles run cleaner or converting diesel vehicles to run on electricity, natural gas or propane. Those steps would reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.

States have to tell a federally appointed trustee how they intend to spend the money before it comes in, a process that could take months. Besides mitigating pollution from diesel vehicles, 15 percent of the amount can be spent on electric vehicle infrastructure.

Officials with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency believe they will be able to go beyond the 600 tons of nitrogen oxide required by the settlement. Agency officials hope to reach that by asking businesses and local governments to share the cost of converting diesel fleet vehicles to natural gas, propane or electricity.

Owners of VW diesels won’t be able to get money from the state. Minnesota’s portion of the settlement with the German automaker is a small part of a sum negotiated by the federal government. The bulk of that is going to owners who unknowingly purchased Volkswagen cars and SUVs that cheat on emissions tests to trade their cars in or get them fixed.

The Minnesota Legislature could get involved in the spending of the state’s VW settlement funds, MPR reported, but there are specific requirements on how the money can be spent, so lawmakers will not be able to use it for the state budget.

MPCA officials are asking anyone with questions or comments about how the money will be distributed to contact them.