State to spend Volkswagen settlement on clean transportation initiatives

car-electric-vehicle-bmw New York will invest its portion of the multimillion-dollar Volkswagen emissions settlement in clean transportation policies and programs, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this week.

The 2016 settlement, led by then state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, amounted to nearly $128 million. Cuomo on Wednesday said the funds will be used to “dramatically increase” the number of electric vehicles and other clean vehicles in the state. Those vehicles include new buses, trucks, trains, ferries and other vehicles.

The funds also will be used to increase the availability of electric vehicle charging equipment statewide, a program already in progress through the state’s Charge NY program. Since Charge NY was launched in 2013, the number of public charging stations has grown to more than 2,000 statewide. From 2016 to 2017, the number of electric vehicles sold in New York rose 67 percent.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation worked with the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, New York Power Authority, the state Department of Transportation, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, among others, to develop “Clean Transportation NY,” the state’s plan to strategically invest the settlement funds for maximum benefit and to build on the state’s clean energy and climate change plans, officials said.

The state’s settlement investment is expected to result in at least $300 million of clean vehicles and infrastructure on New York’s roads, the governor’s office said.

“Combating climate change and air pollution and protecting our environment is critical to the very future of this great state,” Cuomo said in a statement. “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.”

As part of an aggressive effort 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.

The state will prioritize the replacement of older, high-polluting diesel-powered trucks, school buses and equipment with cleaner vehicles and equipment.

Officials said the nitrogen oxide emission reductions achieved by the $127.7 million investment will exceed the emissions from the faulty VW vehicles and will be equivalent to removing 65,000 vehicles from the road, improving air quality statewide.

“Gov. 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,” said DOT Acting Commissioner Paul Karas. “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.”

The 80-page “Clean Transportation NY” plan details how the VW settlement funds will be divvied up, but stops short of saying how many and which communities will see the replacement and repowering projects. However, the document states that projects will be located across the state, while prioritizing areas of air quality concern and environmental justice communities, or communities predominantly comprising minorities or low-income residents.

The plan calls for:
• Buses—At least $52.4 million. Statewide replacement projects include 100 or more all-electric transit buses, with funding available for up to 400 new alternative fuel, all-electric or diesel powered school and paratransit buses, with a priority for all-electric school buses;
• Large trucks—Up to $11.5 million, with replacement projects including roughly 145 trucks. Preferential funding will be given to all-electric trucks and replacement of trucks operated in or near EJ communities;
• Medium trucks—$8.5 million in funding, which includes replacement of 265 trucks and priority placed on all-electric trucks;
• Electric vehicle charging stations—$19.2 million for light-duty zero emission vehicle supply equipment and hydrogen fueling stations;
• Railroad freight switchers—Up to $8 million in funding to replace up to 10 freight switchers with new diesel or electric freight switchers or engines. EJ communities will be prioritized;
• Ferries/tugs—Up to $3.5 million in funding to repower up to 12 ferries with new diesel or electric engines;
• Airport equipment—$3.2 million in funding for 77 airport equipment charging stations supporting 154 new all-electric airport ground support equipment;
• Port cargo handling equipment—Up to $1 million in funding for the replacement of older forklifts or port handling equipment with four new all-electric equipment; and
• Support federal diesel emission reduction grants—Up to $10 million to replace older trucks servicing port facilities near EJ communities with an estimated 300 newer diesel trucks.

“We thank Gov. 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 the future,” said New York Public Transit Association President and Rochester’s Regional Transit System CEO Bill Carpenter. “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.”

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City, five other employers, vow to create charging stations

The City of Rochester and five other employers are pledging to boost electric vehicle recharging stations, hoping to enlarge the infrastructure supporting the growth of electric vehicles in the state.

The employers, which also include Dixon Schwabl, Larsen Engineers, Nazareth College, Rochester Institute of Technology and SunCommon NY Inc., are scheduled to be recognized at an event at Radio Social Tuesday (March 6) night. The event is co-sponsored by the city’s Rochester Electric Vehicle Accelerator and the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce.

“By increasing the number of charging stations at workplaces, local organizations are making it clear they want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make their local communities healthier,” said Alicia Barton, president and CEO of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. “I applaud those who have signed the pledge for showing real leadership by supporting this initiative which will help us meet Governor Cuomo’s ambitious goals to combat climate change while advancing the economic growth and community development priorities of Finger Lakes Forward.”

NYSERDA supports the city’s electric initiative, which has already resulted in 12 city recharging stations, and 10 electric city vehicles. Combined, the six employers have a total of 30 charging stations.

Cuomo’s Charge NY 2.0 initiative had set a goal of 30,000 to 40,000 electric cars on the road by 2018, which has already been met. Charge NY also set a goal of making 10,000 charging stations available across the state by 2021. Currently there are about 2,000 stations.

“Workplace charging allows employers to increase the convenience and affordability of driving electric for their employees, which plays a role in attracting and retaining top talent, said Bob Duffy, president and CEO of Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce.

Mayor Lovely A. Warren added, “Our region’s growing reputation as a community that is committed to environmental stewardship is helping us create more jobs, safer and more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities for our citizens.”

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