DC decides how to spend portion of US Volkswagen settlement

WASHINGTON — The District has announced how it plans to spend its portion of settlement with Volkswagen.

In order to receive the $8.1 million set aside for D.C. to tackle smog emissions, the District must tell Wilmington Trust, which is overseeing the fund, how it intends to use its portion in writing.

The money is part of an overall $15-billion deal between Volkswagen and the government over allegations that Volkswagen modified computer software in close to 600,000 cars in order to cheat federal emissions tests.

The money for affected states and D.C. comes from the $2.7 billion Volkswagen will pay over three years into an Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund, aimed at knocking down smog emissions in the U.S.

In its filing, the District says it plans to focus on three main project areas: replacing diesel-powered switcher locomotives at Union Station, replacing buses and trash trucks with more environmentally friendly versions, and setting up a rebate program for residents and companies that add idling reduction technology to their vehicles.

The D.C. Department of Energy and Environment has earmarked $2.3 million to go toward the replacement of the switcher locomotives, which are used to assemble and move rail cars at Union Station. The five locomotives would be replaced with cleaner diesel engines or possibly electric engines, starting in the 2019 fiscal year.

Just over $5 million will be set aside for purchasing trash trucks and buses that are electric or run on natural gas. The new trucks and buses will be used in Wards 5, 7 and 8 — which are home to a majority of the D.C.’s low income neighborhoods and are also areas which see the highest rates of asthma, cancer and other diseases.

The rebate program for installing tailpipe retrofits, which are intended to make trucks more environmentally friendly while idling, would receive $89,000 from the District’s share of the settlement.

Virginia is expecting to see more than $93 million from the fund and Maryland more than $75 million. Both states are still working on finalizing spending plans.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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