Last Thursday, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (“MPCA”) released its draft Volkswagen Settlement Beneficiary Mitigation Plan (“the Draft Plan”). This Draft Plan details how the MPCA will spend $47 million in settlement funds from a $15 billion settlement with auto manufacturer Volkswagen, whose vehicles were producing 30-40 times more nitrogen oxide pollution than is allowed by law.
Environment Minnesota thanks the MPCA for putting out a forward-looking plan, one that will invest 30% of the funds (approximately $14 million) in heavy duty electric vehicles and the state’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure. This is a huge boon to Minnesotans: diesel heavy duty vehicles are by far the largest contributors of excess NOx emissions worldwide, according to a 2017 study in Nature Magazine. Further, expanding the state’s electric vehicle charging grid is a vital step towards modernizing and decarbonizing our cars, trucks and heavy duty vehicles.
The plan is not perfect, however. The MPCA estimates that the vast majority of the funds will go towards new diesel and propane vehicles. We urge the MPCA to prioritize grant submissions for electric vehicles, as these projects will ultimately maximize public health benefits and provide the greatest cost savings for taxpayers in the long term.
Finally, we caution the Minnesota House and Senate not to appropriate these funds for any purpose. The United States District Court, Northern District of California, determined a specific and clear process for distributing these funds, one that must be directed by the State of Minnesota and its designated agency, the MPCA. Any intervention by the Minnesota legislature, well-intended or not, puts these funds at risk; two bills in the Senate --SF 2473 and SF 2516-- do just that. Although we would certainly like the MCPA to dedicate a greater portion of the funds to electric vehicles, we believe that the authority to disperse the funds must ultimately remain with the State of Minnesota and the MPCA.
 Minnesota’s Volkswagen Settlement Beneficiary Mitigation Plan – DRAFT. February 2018. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. https://www.pca.state.mn.us/sites/default/files/aq-mvp2-32a.pdf
 The Draft Plan, "Table 7: Number of vehicle replacement projects funded in Phase 1 model." p. 42.
 City of Minneapolis Electric Vehicle Study, Final Report. City of Minneapolis Fleet Services Division. October 2017. https://lims.minneapolismn.gov/Download/RCA/2361/10_Municipal%20Fleet%20....