Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Transportation authority awarded“clean” buses with $675K in Volkswagen settlement money

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority will replace three buses with lower-emission models. (PCD/ Ben Brown).

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Three buses belonging to Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority will be replaced with lower-emission vehicles through North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality funding announced Monday. 

NCDEQ’s Division of Air Quality awarded $675,000 to the authority for three CNG, or compressed natural gas, buses that are more sustainable alternatives to diesel-powered vehicles. CNGs produce 20 to 45% less smog-producing pollutants and 5 to 9% less greenhouse gas emissions than diesel.

According to NCDEQ, the “clean buses” will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides, with the three Wilmington buses reducing their emissions by 1.32 tons. 

The award is only a small part of the bus replacements — 61 in total – taking place in multiple counties. 

The largest allocation went to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety for 32 new prison transport buses. Other recipients include the N.C. Zoo; the cities of Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte, Greensboro and Chapel Hill; and universities and transit authorities across the state.

New Hanover County was the only recipient to receive CNG buses; others were allocated either diesel or electric vehicles. 

NCDEQ obtained the money from its share of the U.S. Justice Department’s 2016 settlement with Volkswagen. The German automaker was discovered to have sold over a dozen diesel models with computer software designed to fool tailpipe inspection tests, allowing the cars to produce up to 40 times the legal pollution limit.

To resolve its case, Volkswagen has to spend up to $14.7 billion to compensate consumers and mitigate pollution. North Carolina received $68 million of that money and around $20 million will be spent on this initiative, along with a $6.3 million infusion from North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality (CMAQ) program.

The Division of Air Quality received 13 applications from transportation entities, totaling over $35.5. Million. The selection committee fully or partially funded at least one requested bus from each applicant.

Of the funded buses, 23 are projects in one of the 37 historically under-resourced counties the division targeted for additional outreach and support during the application process. According to the announcement, the goal of this program is to help equitably distribute the available Volkswagen settlement funding across the state.

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