TRENTON – The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is seeking public input on a draft plan that will direct how the state uses money from the national Volkswagen settlement to improve air quality.
This is a key step in determining how New Jersey will spend its $72.2 million share of the $2.9 billion federal settlement resulting from the company’s installation of devices to cheat state emissions testing programs across the country, including New Jersey.
“Through this settlement, we have the opportunity to make investments to clean up our air, righting a wrong for disproportionately impacted communities and setting New Jersey on a path to a clean energy and transportation future,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “We are excited to engage with state residents as we move forward with our mission to protect public health, preserve the environment, and improve the quality of life of all New Jerseyans.”
“Our goal is to use New Jersey’s share of the national Volkswagen settlement to develop programs that are consistent with Governor Murphy’s commitment to reduce smog as well as greenhouse gas emissions, advance environmental justice goals in urban areas and expand the use of electric vehicles,” said DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe.
As part of its public outreach effort, the DEP is launching a multiplatform campaign to ensure robust dialogue as the state develops strategies and programs that will benefit public health and the environment.
New Jersey’s Draft Beneficiary Mitigation Plan notes that emissions from the transportation sector account for 42 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and are the single largest source of the pollution that cause ground-level ozone pollution, known more commonly as smog.
The primary goal of this plan is to improve ambient air quality by using the state allocation to implement projects that reduce smog-causing nitrogen oxides, benefit disproportionately affected communities, and expedite deployment and widespread adoption of zero-emission vehicles. The draft plan is the culmination of public comments received by stakeholders and the public, a process that began nearly a year ago.
To further public engagement in the process, the DEP is holding a series of webinars and public meetings to be complemented by social media posts.
Webinars will be held on Oct. 12 at 10 a.m. and Oct. 17 at 6:30 p.m. To register, visit www.state.nj.us/dep/vw
Public outreach sessions will be:
To register, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and the date/time of the session you would like to attend. Social media posts will be updated in conjunction with each event.
In September and November 2015, the EPA and the California Air Resources Board alleged that Volkswagen had secretly installed defeat devices – software designed to cheat emissions testing and deceive federal and state regulators – in certain Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche-branded turbocharged direct-injection diesel vehicles.
The defeat device rendered the vehicles’ emissions controls inoperable unless the vehicles were undergoing emissions testing. The use of the defeat devices resulted in increased emissions of oxides of nitrogen in New Jersey and throughout the nation. NOx significantly contributes to the formation of ground level ozone, which negatively impacts the respiratory system and cardiovascular health.
This type of pollution disproportionately affects urban areas due to the high volume of vehicle traffic they experience. Seventy-one percent of the statewide NOx emissions inventory is from mobile sources.
On October 25, 2016 and May 17, 2017, two Partial Consent Decrees were approved between the United States, California, and Volkswagen to, among other things, offset excess NOx emissions. The Partial Consent Decrees established a $2.93 billion Environmental Mitigation Trust to provide funds to all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and federally recognized tribes and to implement actions to counter the air quality impacts of excess NOx emissions resulting from the use of the defeat devices.
The trustee for the Mitigation Trust approved New Jersey’s beneficiary status on Jan. 29 of this year. The DEP is designated as the lead agency to administer the funds. The initial allocation to New Jersey is $72.2 million, based on the estimated 17,000 registered vehicles in the State that were equipped with these defeat devices.
New Jersey will allocate 15 percent of its funds for light-duty zero-emission vehicle-fueling and charging infrastructure.
The Consent Decree established a process to administer the funds, a process for states and tribes to receive the funds, including the development of a mitigation plan, and the ten types of mitigation “actions” or projects eligible for funding under the Trust.
Eight of the ten eligible mitigation actions are specific to certain types of diesel vehicles. The remaining two eligible mitigation actions cover refueling and charging equipment for light-duty zero-emission vehicles, and projects eligible for funding under the federal Diesel Emission Reduction Act.
New Jersey’s draft plan provides proposed actions to improve emissions from freight trucks, school buses, transit buses, airport ground support equipment, freight-switching locomotives, ferries, tugboats, forklift and cargo-handling equipment and ocean-going vessels and government vehicles.
It also calls for installation of publicly accessible electric-vehicle charging stations at government-owned property, as well as charging stations for the use of employees at their workplaces and for residents of multiple-dwelling properties such as apartment and condominium complexes.
For more information on the settlement, the Draft Mitigation Plan and outreach meetings, visit: www.state.nj.us/dep/vw/