VW settlement may fund charging stations

Department will take comments until Oct. 13

Those who assume that any settlement agreement between the auto manufacturer Volkswagen and Colorado would center on the Front Range would be wrong to do so.

The German auto manufacturer that got caught in a cheating scandal on emissions tests in Europe and the United States in 2015 has agreed to spend about $14.7 billion in a settlement agreement, some of which is to go to states to use in transportation projects that reduce carbon emissions.

Of that, Colorado’s portion is about $68.7 million.

But what exactly the state will do with that money is not yet decided. That’s why the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released a draft plan last month.

That plan, about which the department is accepting public comments, includes more than helping areas of the state meet emissions standards that Volkswagen was trying to get around.

It also includes proposals that reach all corners of the state, such as installing charging stations along the Interstate 70 corridor from the Front Range to Grand Junction.

“The public suggested that CDPHE allocate the maximum amount allowed under the settlement — 15 percent, or approximately $10 million — toward EV (electric vehicle) charging infrastructure, and to use the remainder on replacing diesel trucks and buses with electric vehicles,” said Will Toor, director of the Denver-based Southwest Energy Efficiency Project.

“The state’s draft plan ... does a good job of responding to this input, and calls for making meaningful investments in electrification of Colorado cars, trucks and buses.”

Nearly 10,000 Coloradans had purchased one of Volkswagen’s diesel vehicles that had emissions cheating software,  designed to kick in only in areas where vehicle emissions testing was required, such as the Denver metropolitan area.

Although the bulk of the state’s settlement money is expected to go to helping clear the air along the Front Range, the department has made it clear it will include projects that provide benefit to all areas of the state, such as electric or alternative fuel buses.

Money for such things would later go out in the form of grants.

“The goal of this settlement is to reduce harmful pollution and positively impact public health as much as possible,” said Sophia Guerrero-Murphy, transportation and energy advocate for Conservation Colorado.

“This is also an opportunity to make sure our whole state benefits from infrastructure that will positively impact our air and quality of life, especially underserved urban and rural communities.”

The department will be working on the draft plan over the next few months, and expects to receive the funds sometime early next year.

In the meantime, it is taking comments until Oct. 13 about its draft plan, which can be found at colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/VW, or by emailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


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