ALBANY -- The state will use $127.7 million from a settlement with Volkswagen to increase the number of electric vehicles in the state, state officials announced Wednesday.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the money from a 2016 emissions scandal settlement will go toward purchasing electric school buses, trucks, locomotives, marine ferries and tugboats, as well as cargo-handling equipment and electric vehicle charging stations. By reducing the number of fossil-fuel engines in use, the initiative is expected to remove about 4,500 tons of nitrogen oxide pollution from the state's air.
"Combating climate change and air pollution and protecting our environment is critical to the future of this great state," Cuomo said in a prepared statement. "As Washington continues to roll back protections, New York is more committed than ever to supporting cleaner, greener transportation technologies."
The state Department of Environmental Conservation hosted a press conference at Capital District Transportation Authority headquarters in Albany to announce the release of "Clean Transportation NY," an 80-page plan for how settlement funds should be invested.
The plan calls for $52.4 million to go toward the purchase of about 100 new all-electric mass transit buses and 400 new school or "paratransit" buses that use electric, alternative fuel or clean diesel technology.
While transit agencies still must apply for the funding, CDTA -- which provides bus service in Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga and Rensselaer counties -- is expected to seek funding. The authority already uses electric-diesel hybrid buses on some routes.
"There is a lot of excitement surrounding electric vehicle technology, and CDTA wants to be at the forefront of this work," said CDTA CEO Carm Basile.
The money will be coming from the state's share of a national settlement approved by a federal judge in October 2016, after VW was found to have installed devices to circumvent federal emissions standards for nitrogen oxides in 580,000 Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche vehicles sold between 2009 and 2016. The settlement called for VW to pay $2.9 billion into a mitigation trust fund, to be split among states and Native American tribes. The settlement also included $10 billion for people who purchased those vehicles.
Nitrogen oxides are a main contributor to smog and respiratory problems, according to state officials.
"These settlement funds will allow us to speed up the transition to a clean transportation system, which will make the air we breath healthier for all New Yorkers, including those in environmental justice communities," said state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos.
Environmental justice communities are those in which minority and low-income residents experience disproportionate impacts from highways and railroad lines where diesel exhaust is discharged.
In addition to $52.4 million for buses, the plan is expected to allocate $11.5 million toward replacing large diesel trucks, $8.5 million toward replacing medium trucks, $19.2 million for electric vehicle charging stations, $8 million for electric railroad freight switchers, $3.5 million for modernization of ferries and tug boats, $3.2 million for airport equipment, and $1 million toward port cargo handling equipment.
"The Sierra Club is gratified that the state of New York will not only be spending the settlement funds in communities that have suffered the worst concentrations of tailpipe pollution, but will also emphasize investment in all-electric, zero-emission technologies, which is the future for every car, truck and bus in the Empire State," said Roger Downs, conservation director for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter.