Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced New York will utilize the $127.7 million received from the 2016 Volkswagen settlement to dramatically increase the number of electric vehicles and other clean vehicles in the state. Covered vehicles include new buses, trucks, locomotives, ferries, tug boats, and cargo handling equipment, as well as the availability of electric vehicle charging equipment statewide. At the Governor’s direction, the state Department of Environmental Conservation in concert with the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, New York Power Authority, state Department of Transportation, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and others, developed Clean Transportation NY – New York’s plan to strategically invest settlement resources for maximum benefit and to build on New York’s national leadership on clean energy and climate change. The funds were secured through the Attorney General’s settlement with Volkswagen in close collaboration with DEC. The state’s strategically leveraged investment of settlement funds is anticipated to result in at least $300 million of clean vehicles and infrastructure on New York’s roadways.
“Combatting climate change and air pollution and protecting our environment is critical to the very future of this great state,” Governor Cuomo said. “As Washington continues to roll back protections, New York is more committed than ever to supporting cleaner, greener transportation technologies. By strategically investing these settlement funds, we can take real action to improve community health and sustainability, while providing incentives to address one of the largest causes of harmful pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.”
“This settlement funding provides an opportunity for New York to once again lead the way and advance our clean energy economy,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “While the federal government is attacking scientists, denying the reality of climate change, and trying to revive the coal industry, we know here in New York that clean energy will fuel our economy going forward. Investing in electric vehicles and green technology will cut dangerous emissions, improve air quality, and strengthen the health and wellness of communities across New York.”
New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood said, “Our office secured an unprecedented settlement with Volkswagen for its flagrant violations of emissions standards. Now, the VW settlement funds are being put to work to expand the use of electric vehicles across New York. We have aggressively and successfully fought back against those who harm New Yorkers’ health and environment – and we will continue to do so.”
In October 2016, a federal judge approved a national settlement plan to address Volkswagen’s installation and use of devices in approximately 580,000 Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche vehicles that circumvented federal emissions standards for nitrogen oxides (NOx), one of the main contributors to smog and respiratory problems. The companies installed emissions control defeat device software in cars from model years 2009 through 2016, which allowed NOx emissions up to 40 times the certification standard.
With the support of the Attorney General’s Office, New York received $127.7 million as part of this legal settlement. The state will invest these resources in projects to mitigate the impacts of VW’s air violations. Under Clean Transportation NY, the state will use these funds to maximize the reduction of emissions of NOx and other harmful pollutants, including greenhouse gases, particulate matter, and mobile source air toxics while also spurring investment in clean transportation infrastructure.
As part of its aggressive efforts to fight climate change, the state plans to use more than 60 percent of the funding to accelerate the adoption of electrified transportation by reducing the cost of electric buses and trucks, particularly transit buses, and providing funding for electric vehicle charging infrastructure. In addition, New York will replace or re-power older, high-polluting diesel-powered trucks, school buses, and equipment with cleaner vehicles and equipment. The state will prioritize replacement of older, dirty vehicles and equipment with emission-free electric versions and will fund replacement with other new, much lower-emitting technologies that would provide substantially greater emission reductions for the funding available.
New York’s actions are designed to both mitigate the impacts of the excess NOx emissions from VW vehicles and provide incentives to transition to newer, cleaner vehicles for public transit, individual use, and freight transport. NOx emission reductions achieved by the plan will exceed the emissions from the faulty VW vehicles and will be equivalent to removing 65,000 automobiles from the road, which will improve air quality statewide. The Clean Transportation NY plan strategies are also designed to reduce NOx emissions in areas disproportionately impacted by diesel pollution, including environmental justice (EJ) communities. The plan is designed both to stimulate the transition to electric equipment, trucks, and buses and maximize NOx emission reductions, particularly in EJ communities, by replacing old, dirty vehicles like garbage trucks and drayage trucks with cleaner, lower-emitting new vehicles.
Additional Clean Transportation NY investments will fund electric vehicle charging infrastructure to support and encourage the growth of all-electric ground support equipment at airports and light-duty, on-road all-electric vehicles throughout the state. The mitigation plan will also bolster the state’s Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) program, which requires vehicle manufacturers to research, develop, and market electric vehicles that will have zero tailpipe emissions. Governor Cuomo’s aggressive actions to support electric vehicle sales and infrastructure have already increased the number of electric vehicles sold in New York 67 percent from 2016 to 2017.
After finalizing the plan, DEC will work with state authorities and others to implement it. That implementation process will prioritize electrification in most investment categories. For example, DEC will work with a New York authority with a decided emphasis on replacing old diesel-powered school buses with new, all-electric school buses. This solicitation will recognize the promise of cooperative and community ownership models, without excluding other public and private proposals. Implementation processes will also prioritize investments in EJ areas and other areas disproportionately burdened by diesel emissions.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Seggos said, “Governor Cuomo’s ongoing commitment to fight climate change has made New York a national leader in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and making clean vehicles a viable option for businesses, residents, and municipalities. These settlement funds will allow us to speed-up the transition to a clean transportation system, which will make the air we breathe healthier for all New Yorkers, including those in environmental justice communities.”
Richard Kauffman, Chairman of Energy and Finance for New York State, said, “Under Governor Cuomo, New York has already made significant progress in reducing our carbon footprint from the energy sector and power plants. By putting these VW settlement monies to good use, New York has significant opportunities to expand the growth and usage of cleaner modes of transportation across the state to ensure we meet our nation-leading emissions reduction goals to combat climate change.”
State Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Paul A. Karas said, “Governor Cuomo is leading the way on curbing climate change and this new plan will go even further by expanding the use of clean-fueled vehicles and improving air quality. We are proud to partner with our sister agencies to implement this ambitious plan, making wise use of settlement funds to transform our transportation system so that communities across the state can have clean air and prosper.”
Alicia Barton, President and CEO, NYSERDA, said, “As the state continues to prioritize improving infrastructure for and access to electric vehicles, consumers across the state can be confident with their choice to make the switch to cleaner, greener vehicles in the fight against climate change. This investment by Governor Cuomo furthers his already resolute commitment to reducing carbon emissions within the transportation sector while bringing cost-saving and environmental benefits to all New Yorkers.”
Gil C. Quiniones, President and CEO of the New York Power Authority, which served an advisory role on the spending plan, said, “Making it easier for New Yorkers to drive clean is a priority for New York to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and continue leading the fight against climate change. NYPA will be a key partner in implementing specific EV infrastructure projects involving transit buses, school buses, airport baggage vehicles and their charging equipment. And the first phase of our new EVolve NY initiative will further support the adoption of electric vehicles by directing another $40 million into expanding fast charging infrastructure along key corridors, creating New York City airport charging hubs, and establishing EV model communities.”
Christine Weydig, Director of Office of Environmental and Energy Programs at The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey said, “New York state is taking a big step to address pollution from nitrogen oxides. These funds will assist the region in significantly reducing these emissions and provide a cleaner transportation system. The Port Authority is has also committed to decreasing emissions from agency, tenant, and customer operations by 80 percent by 2050.”
Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, said, “The increase of zero emissions vehicles on the road is one of the tracts we can take to combat the greater problem of climate change. I am pleased to see New York using monies from the Volkswagen settlement to add these clean electric vehicles to the New York’s roadways and I look forward to an open and transparent process on how the funds will be allocated. The addition of clean buses, trucks, and other heavy vehicles will help to achieve the State’s clean energy goals.”
New York Public Transit Association President Bill Carpenter said, “We thank Governor Cuomo for recognizing the importance of investing in public transit and for dedicating a portion of the VW settlement funding to help transit systems invest in their future. Public transit systems across the state are committed to purchasing electric buses and are excited about the opportunity that this funding provides to accelerate the implementation of electric vehicle technology.”
Capital District Transportation Authority CEO Carm Basile said, “There is a lot of excitement surrounding electric vehicle technology and CDTA wants to be at the forefront of this work. We want to applaud the Governor for his forward-thinking and steadfast work on the Clean Transportation NY initiative. This thoughtful process will deliver solutions that are good for the environment, good for our communities, and good for the people and business that rely on us.”
Roger Downs, Conservation Director, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter said, “Volkswagen’s illegal installation of “defeat devices”, which were designed to cheat on automobile emissions tests, put more New Yorkers already struggling with poor air quality at risk for serious smog related respiratory ailments. The Sierra Club is gratified that the State of New York will not only be spending the settlement funds in communities that have suffered the worst concentrations of tailpipe pollution, but will also emphasize investment in all-electric, zero emission technologies, which is the future for every car, truck and bus in the Empire State.”
Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, “The announcement to invest our state’s $127 million VW Settlement in clean transportation is a significant step forward towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We are proud that our members’ advocacy for the electrification of school buses has been heard by the administration and is one of the priorities in Governor Cuomo’s plans. We are especially excited that the investments will be prioritized for environmental justice communities that have traditionally been overburdened by pollution, which leads to health risks including asthma. As our Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign has shown, children who ride diesel school buses remain one of the most vulnerable populations to diesel pollution and stand to gain the greatest benefits if we eliminate these sources of pollution through electric school buses. We look forward to working with the administration and stakeholders to ensure that electrification of our state’s school bus fleet remains a top priority as this plan is implemented.”
Luke Tonachel, Director, Clean Vehicles and Fuels Project, Natural Resources Defense Council said, “The transportation sector is New York State’s largest source of pollution that threatens our health and climate. Electrifying our cars, buses and freight vehicles is a key strategy for cleaning our air and safeguarding all New Yorkers and we are encouraged that the State is planning for increased investments in clean, electric vehicles.”
New York City Environmental Justice Alliance Executive Director Eddie Bautista said, “Too often, New York’s communities of color bear the brunt of diesel pollution and the State is correct to prioritize investing VW settlement resources to take dirty diesel vehicles off the streets and out of our neighborhoods. Moving forward, we will work with DEC and other state agencies and authorities to maximize New York’s clean transportation investments and the benefits to our communities that will result from emission-free electric trucks and buses.”
Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN said, “We applaud Governor Cuomo’s announcement today to invest the Volkswagen settlement funds towards transitioning to electric public transit. Investing in clean transportation for the state is a step forward in the fight against climate change, while also incentivizing worker owned cooperative models. It will create jobs, reduce emissions, and prioritize the communities who have borne the largest burden of pollution and health issues. We look forward to working with the Department of Environmental Conservation to implement this plan.”
George Miranda, Teamsters Joint Council 16 President said, “We applaud NYS Governor Cuomo in utilizing the VW settlement to accelerate smart clean growth in the industries with the most need and leading with progressive policies in communities that deserve environmental justice.”
Hector Figueroa, 32BJ SEIU President said, “Today’s announcement is a win-win-win. Strategically investing funds from the VW settlement will reduce climate change inducing pollution, help to make our transportation sector more energy efficient, and support our state’s growing clean energy industries while creating good jobs. All New Yorkers stand to benefit from these smart, green investments.”
NOx is a group of highly reactive gases containing nitrogen and oxygen produced during combustion. NOx is a primary component in ground-level ozone which can cause asthma and other respiratory and cardiological problems, as well as contribute to acid rain, and damage forests, crops, and waterways. In addition, NOx is associated with the deposition of excess nutrients to waterbodies, which contributes to algal blooms, damage to fish and shellfish, and other negative environmental impacts.
New York has reduced ozone levels across the state, including in the New York Metropolitan Area ozone nonattainment area. The state has also reduced NOx emissions in the electricity sector, achieving reductions of 89 percent from fossil fuel power plants since 2000. However, emissions from “mobile sources,” which include motor vehicles, airplanes, locomotives, and other engine-driven equipment, account for approximately 67 percent of all NOx emissions in New York.
During the process of developing the plan to utilize VW settlement funds, DEC solicited comments and suggestions from both private and public partners. In addition to working with state agencies and authorities, these outreach efforts included six public events throughout the state to seek comments. More than 150 people attended the public events. DEC also held more than 60 meetings, presentations, or conference calls with stakeholder groups. These stakeholders included environmental groups, transportation groups, medium- and heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers, energy suppliers, and EJ organizations.
DEC welcomes further stakeholder input on the plan prior to submitting it to the federal trustee in September and as the plan is implemented. More information on Clean Transportation NY and the VW settlement is available on the DEC website: http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/109784.html.