The state of New York will receive more than $127 million from the Volkswagen settlement, but the money is made available over a number of years. This week, New York authorities announced that $24 million is now available, of which $18 million will be used to fund the purchase of electric buses, especially for the transportation needs of low income areas in New York’s crowded inner cities. Another $6 million will be devoted to upgrading the state’s charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. The transportation sector is currently the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in New York, representing about 34% of the state’s total emissions.
Basil Seggos, head of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, says in a press release, “The transportation sector remains the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in New York, and by taking action to remove the worst polluters from our roads, communities across the state will benefit, especially those overburdened by pollution in our cities. I thank Governor Cuomo for his ongoing leadership in promoting green and renewable technologies and providing incentives to improve our air quality, reduce emissions, and create a sustainable future for New York’s transportation industry.”
The Volkswagen settlement funds are partially administered by the New York State Energy and Research Development Agency (NYSERDA). Alicia Barton, who heads NYSERDA, said “The Truck Voucher Incentive Program enables us to support fleet owners in their efforts to add cleaner, more efficient trucks and buses that support the state’s nation-leading efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under Governor Cuomo’s Green New Deal. Supporting a statewide effort to increase the use of all-electric buses and ramping up electric vehicle charging stations gives fleet owners the confidence they need to go greener and cleaner with their vehicles and hastens our ability to ultimately eliminate New York State’s carbon footprint.”
The funds may be used to replace diesel-powered vehicles built in 2009 or earlier. The replaced vehicles must be removed from service and scrapped, not sold on to other countries where they could continue to be used for decades. The bus replacement program is designed to help lower pollutants and exhaust emissions in communities of color and low income neighborhoods that experience a disproportionate share of negative environmental effects.
The NYSERDA Truck Voucher Incentive Program offers point of sale rebates designed to reduce the cost for businesses and municipalities that want to purchase new, clean electric or alternative-fueled vehicles such as commercial trucks and buses. These new all-electric transit buses will be garaged at bus depots and operated on routes located within Environmental Justice communities.
Assemblyman Steve Englebright, head of the state legislature’s Environmental Conservation Committee, said, “I want to commend Governor Cuomo for the manner in which he is handling the health emergency caused by the Corona virus while still providing important leadership in the urgent struggle to address climate change. The rebates announced today will put funds obtained from the Volkswagen emissions scandal to good use. Local bus transportation entities can use the rebates to replace diesel-powered buses with new clean modern electric buses. While New York State addresses the health emergency it is important to also accelerate the move away from fossil fuels.”
Indeed. COVID-19 is a scourge upon the land, but that doesn’t mean the world has stopped turning or that measures to address the even worse horrors of an overheated planet should be ignored.