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Volkswagen Settlement to Reduce Emissions, Improve Utah Air

By Lisa Burr

2010 Volkswagen Golf with defeat device. Photo credit: Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz

Efforts to improve Utah’s air quality are getting a big boost thanks to a nationwide $15.7 billion settlement with Volkswagen (VW) for violations of the Clean Air Act.

Utah is set to receive approximately $35 million from the settlement to offset nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from the approximately 7,000 VW, Audi, and Porsche vehicles in the state affected by VW’s violations. Governor Herbert designated the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) as the lead agency to administer these monies.

DEQ is seeking public input for the Environmental Mitigation Plan (EMP) that will identify the categories of eligible vehicles/equipment to be funded. The public input process begins November 1, 2017, and ends November 30, 2017.

Volkswagen Settlement: A Brief History

In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Notice of Violation against VW for installing “defeat devices” that falsified emission-certification results in VW, Audi, and Porsche diesel passenger vehicles. While the vehicles complied with federal limits during certification testing, they emitted up to 40 times the federal NOx limit under normal driving conditions.

VW ultimately admitted to secretly installing “cheat” software in some of its model year 2009-2016 diesel vehicles. Approximately 500,000 vehicles with 2.0-liter diesel engines and 80,000 vehicles with 3.0-liter engines were fitted with the illegal software.

DEQ determined that excess NOx emissions from the affected VW, Audi, and Porsche vehicles contributed an estimated 230.1 tons-per-year to Utah’s airsheds. Approximately 70 percent of the affected vehicles are registered in the seven counties designated as nonattainment for particulate matter (PM2.5) under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

DEQ’s Role

DEQ’s responsibilities as lead agency include the development of an Environmental Mitigation Plan. The VW settlement identified certain categories of vehicles and equipment that are eligible for funding under the agreement. Utah’s EMP will determine which categories the state will target for that funding. Eligible engine or vehicle/equipment replacements include:

Weight class 8.

  • Class 8 local freight trucks (large trucks)
  • Class 4-8 school buses, shuttle buses, or transit buses
  • Freight switchers
  • Class 4-7 local freight trucks (medium trucks)
  • Airport ground-support equipment
  • Forklifts

Weight Class 4-7.

In addition, the settlement allows the state to use up to 15 percent of its allocation for certain light-duty, zero-emission vehicle supply equipment and light-duty, hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicle supply equipment. Utah can also use the funds as part of its non-federal voluntary match for Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) projects.

DEQ Executive Director Alan Matheson created an advisory committee to develop recommendations for Utah’s EMP. The committee, composed of representatives from multiple organizations, was asked to identify and evaluate eligible mitigation actions, suggest funding options, and develop recommendations for public review and comment. The committee recommended funding allocations from the settlement monies as follows:

  • Fifty-two percent for Class 8 (large) local freight trucks
  • Twenty-five percent for Class 4-7 (medium) local freight trucks
  • Eleven percent for light-duty, zero-emission-vehicle supply equipment
  • Seven percent for Class 4-8 school buses, shuttle buses, or transit buses
  • Five percent for administrative costs

These recommendations, along with input from the public, will help guide DEQ in its development of the final EMP.

Public Participation

The agency invites the public to comment on Utah’s EMP during a public-input process beginning November 1, 2017, and ending November 30, 2017. Commenters can use an interactive calculator to help them evaluate eligible vehicle/equipment categories and associated costs for NOx reductions before making their selections. DEQ will summarize the selections and comments received during the public comment period and make them available to the public for review.

DEQ is also developing a Request for Information (RFI) process to give private and public fleet owners the opportunity to submit specific vehicle/equipment replacements to the agency for evaluation for potential funding. Fleet owners can register on the State’s Supplier Portal, SciQuest, to receive an email notification when the RFI process begins.

Conclusion

The VW Settlement funding offers Utah a great opportunity to improve its air quality, protect the health of its residents, and help businesses “green” their fleets with cleaner transportation options.

We want to hear from you! Mark your calendar so you can provide input when the comment period opens. Your input will help us select projects that offset pollution generated by the VW defeat devices and reduce NOx emissions in the state for years to come.
Want to learn more about the settlement? Visit our new VW Settlement webpage to find detailed information  about the settlement process, consent decree terms, eligible projects, and the work of the VW Advisory Committee. 

I have worked for the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) for eight years. I have a Bachelor of Science Degree from Weber State University and was employed there for 13 years before coming to DAQ. I enjoy cooking, entertaining, camping, traveling, and spending time with my sisters (that’s me on the right.)