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Ohio Considers How to Spend VW Settlement Money

Environmental groups are hopeful Ohio will use funds from the Volkswagen settlement to invest in electric vehicle technologies. (mariordor59/Flickr)
Environmental groups are hopeful Ohio will use funds from the Volkswagen settlement to invest in electric vehicle technologies. (mariordor59/Flickr)
December 29, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio – In the new year, Ohioans can weigh in on how the state can best spend $75 million from the Volkswagen settlement to clean up its transportation sector. The car-maker admitted to cheating on emissions tests, and the money will be used to help mitigate the damage caused by excess vehicle emissions.

Three public meetings on the state's Draft Beneficiary Mitigation Plan will be held in January.

Nathan Alley, transportation policy coordinator for the Sierra Club's Ohio Chapter, says it's a unique opportunity for environmental groups, transit agencies, legislators, industry and the public to work together.

"We're all looking for the same outcomes and benefits here - for projects that will reduce emissions, help improve both the local and statewide economies," he explains. "It's really just a matter of what's the most efficient and effective ways to do it, for the long-run and for the environment - and of course, human health."

The Sierra Club is among the groups calling for investing the money in zero-emissions technology, such as infrastructure for electric vehicles, and transitioning to electric vehicles for transit fleets.

Dr. Christine Curran, associate professor of biological sciences at Northern Kentucky University, says extensive research shows that nitrogen oxide NoX) emissions from vehicles are major contributors to climate change and air pollution, with direct effects on folks who suffer from asthma and other breathing ailments. And she notes the impact is greater on Ohioans in lower-income communities where major interstates intersect.

"Almost every major city has a 'malfunction junction' of sorts, and it's a mess," she laments. "So, you're funneling traffic through neighborhoods and it slows down. You have heavy truck traffic just belching black smoke, and the people living near those highways have high exposure."

Curran adds the health benefits of renewable technologies, like electric vehicles, can't be underestimated.

"If you invest in green transportation, you get a benefit not just in terms of people feeling better - and their weight goes down because they walk a little more - but you can look at the health-care costs, which we all know are going up, up, up, and it gives you a great return on investment," says Curran.

Ohio's draft mitigation plan suggests up to half the settlement money be spent on on-road fleet and equipment projects; 20 percent on transit bus replacement; and 20 percent on school bus replacement.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH