The emissions scandal that dirtied Volkswagen’s reputation has made for cleaner air in Nevada.
The state is using the nearly $25 million it received from the carmaker to fund a variety of green initiatives, including putting EV chargers throughout Nevada. VW paid out more than $1 billion globally in response to allegations that its vehicles cheated diesel emissions testing.
Among the efforts being funding in Nevada is the Electric Highway, which is installing EV charging stations around the state. The program is receiving 15 percent of the Volkswagen funds, the largest share of the settlement.
Greg Lovato is the administrator for Nevada's Department of Environmental Protection.
He said when the state decided to accept the money officials decided that the primary goal would be to reducing pollution.
"Really we wanted to make up for all of those excess nitrogen oxide emissions that were emitted from those cheating vehicles," he said, "We wanted to basically invest in cleaner technologies.”
He said an estimated 700 tons of nitrogen oxide was released into the air by Volkswagens that cheated on emissions testing.
Besides the electric highway, the NDEP has giving out matching funds for clean diesel projects and it has created a competitive grant option.
“We’re actually looking for projects all across the state that are going to reduce emissions with a focus on nitrogen oxide but really all the criteria pollutants – carbon monoxide and frankly greenhouse gas emissions,” Lovato said.
He said about $9 million have already been handed out to replace city and county fleets, along with garbage and recycle trucks with electric vehicles. They've also funded projects to replace ground support vehicles at McCarran International Airport and Reno-Tahoe Airport with electric vehicles.
He said those projects account for 850 tons of nitrogen oxide being removed from the air, far more than what the VW vehicles released.
Lovato said other states have focused on other pollution problems with their funding, but for Nevada, the focus is ground-level pollution.
“When we looked at Nevada, we saw a benefit from reducing ground-level nitrogen oxide pollution, which is actually a precursor to ozone. Ozone pollution is something that we see Clark County,” he said.
Lovato said that while $25 million seems like a lot of money it is really just enough to launch pilot programs into how to address greenhouse gas emissions.
“There’s a lot of movement now towards electric vehicles on a number of fronts. I think this is really helping it and I think we’re going to have to look to other sources of funding in the future in order to encourage electric vehicle adoption," he said.
Greg Lovato, administrator, Nevada’s Division of Environmental Protection
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