The funds were approved in 2016 and the DOT’s Angela Poole says Iowa has been getting input and spent several months putting together a plan. “In the settlement Volkswagen was required to put $2.9 billion into an environmental mitigation trust. And out of that trust, Iowa is going to receive 21 million dollars,” Poole says. “And we can’t just spend it on anything we’d like — they actually have 21 mitigation actions.”
Iowa’s plan includes upgrading or replacing a wide variety of vehicles with engines that release less nitrous oxide (NOx) into the environment. School and transit buses are one category in the plan. “Looking at older diesel engines and replacing the engines or the actual vehicle itself,” Poole says.
Other parts of the plan would target delivery trucks, train locomotives, fork lifts and even tug boats that operate on Iowa rivers. “We actually have some strong interest in helping replace those (tugboat) engines,” Poole says. “They are very expensive, so this opens up an opportunity for those operators.” Poole says the money will be awarded in a competitive grant system, and they recipients will also be required to provide some funding.
“We’re going to put out a request for applications, most likely later this fall,” according to Poole. “We are going to have three funding cycles. We’re going to have ten years to spend the money — so the first year we are going to start asking for applications this fall and we are only going to spend a third of the money.” She says they will then spend one third of the remaining money in each of the other two more cycles. There is no requirement for the amount of emissions they must reduce when spending the money — but Poole says they will be placing some priorities when scoring the grant applications.
“We’re going to look at counties that have higher NOx emission measurements based on the E-P-A’s national emissions inventory. We’ll score projects higher if they are in counties where we had an excess of those VW vehicles So, if there is a county that had more of those vehicles in there, then we are going to mitigate what those vehicles did within that county,” she explains. “We are also going to be looking at vulnerable populations — people that are located within more industrialized urban areas.” Poole says they will combine this money with some other similar programs and they are excited about the wide range of vehicles and areas where they can help reduce emissions.
“It’s going to be fun to see how this all plays out,” Poole says. Poole says the guidelines allow a percentage of the money to be spent in administering the program, but they have decided to not use that and put all the money toward the mitigation programs. You can find out more about the program by going to the Iowa’s Volkswagen settlement website at: www.iowadot.gov/vwsettlement.