Department of the Environment funds electric and alternative fuel school buses under Volkswagen settlement

Department of the Environment funds electric and alternative fuel school buses under Volkswagen settlement

Nearly $2.5 million approved for programs that will improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provide health benefits to children

BALTIMORE (Sept. 26, 2019) – The Maryland Department of the Environment has approved nearly $2.5 million in funding for electric and alternative fuel school buses as part of the settlement of the Volkswagen “defeat devices” case. Funding will go to a pilot program to phase in the use of electric school buses to improve air quality and provide immediate health benefits to children through reduced vehicle emissions. Use of the buses will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

“These clean school bus programs are an investment in a greener future with a focus on transportation electrification and climate leadership,” said Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “Cleaner air for our students means a brighter future for all.”

The department approved all five electric or alternative fuel school bus project proposals received:

  • $755,315 to Frederick County for two electric school buses and charger
  • $494,377 to Howard County for two electric school buses and charger
  • $349,393 to Montgomery County for one electric school bus and charger
  • $340,336 to Prince George’s County for one electric school bus and charger
  • $555,000 to Frederick County for 22 propane-powered school buses

From 2009 through 2015, certain diesel-powered Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche vehicles were equipped with illegal “defeat devices.” These devices allowed cars to meet emissions standards in a laboratory or a testing station, but during normal operation those vehicles emitted nitrogen oxides up to 40 times federal standards. About 16,000 of these illegal vehicles were sold in Maryland.

In February, the Maryland Department of the Environment, in close coordination with the Maryland Energy Administration and the Maryland Department of Transportation, developed a spending plan to invest more than $75 million the state received under a settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and Volkswagen in transportation strategies and projects to improve the quality of the air that Marylanders breathe. The plan puts a priority on the deployment of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and the replacement of old, dirty diesel engines with new, cleaner technologies.

While the plan focuses on ways that Maryland can reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, Maryland will also experience significant co-benefits for the environment. These include reductions in particle pollution from diesel engines, reductions in emissions of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, and reductions in pollution from volatile organic compounds.

After a public participation process that included comments received on a draft spending plan released in 2018, Maryland added the electric school bus pilot program. That program is funded by, in addition to money under the Volkswagen settlement, $600,000 from separate settlements between Maryland and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Bosch to resolve allegations the companies engaged in and facilitated cheating diesel emissions tests. The funding of electric and alternative fuel school buses works hand-in-hand with the department’s statewide school bus idle reduction program. More than 50 Maryland schools have enacted anti-idling measures in their bus loading zones.

After funding the five electric or alternative fuel school bus proposals, about $2.1 million remains available for school bus projects. The department intends to open up this funding for new proposals in spring 2020.

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