Sununu outlines draft plan for Volkswagen settlement money 

  • FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2008, file photo a Volkswagen Jetta TDI diesel engine is displayed at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Volkswagen is facing a deadline of Monday, Dec. 19, 2016, to tell a federal judge in San Francisco whether it has reached a deal with U.S. regulators and attorneys for car owners on the remaining 80,000 diesel vehicles that cheated on emissions tests. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File) Damian Dovarganes

  • FILE - In this Thursday, April 21, 2016, file photo, Joyce Ertel Hulbert, owner of a 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI, holds a sign while interviewed outside of the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco. A federal judge in San Francisco is facing a deadline on whether to approve a nearly 15 billion deal over Volkswagen's emissions cheating scandal that gives most affected car owners the option of having the company buy back their vehicles. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said at a hearing last week that he was strongly inclined to give the deal final approval and would issue a ruling by Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File) Jeff Chiu

  • A Volkswagen Touareg diesel is tested in 2015. Gov. Chris Sununu on Tuesday unveiled his priorities for the state’s $31 million share of the settlement between Volkswagen and the U.S. government. AP file

Monitor staff
Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Two years after an emissions-rigging scandal prompted a $15 billion settlement between Volkswagen and the U.S. government, Gov. Chris Sununu has unveiled his proposal for how to spend New Hampshire’s share.

In a 25-page plan released Tuesday, Sununu unveiled his spending priorities for the state’s portion – nearly $31 million. The proposal includes efforts to swap out state- and municipally owned diesel vehicles for energy-efficient alternatives, building new charging stations for electric vehicles throughout the state, and investing in greenhouse gas reduction in heavily polluted areas.

The plan, developed in coordination with the state Office for Strategic Initiatives, envisions spending down the money in seven years. OSI Director Jared Chicoine touted the plan’s breadth Tuesday, calling it “an exciting opportunity for the state to modernize our fleets, invest in infrastructure, reduce our tax burden and decrease diesel emissions.”

The money came out of a historic settlement between the German automaker and the U.S. government. In 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency joined other parties in suing Volkswagen after the company pleaded guilty to rigging its vehicle’s computers to cheat emissions tests and downplay its nitrogen oxide emissions. Of the settlement that ensued, $2.9 billion was set aside for states, distributed proportionally based on the number of vehicles affected.

Since its announcement, how best to spend New Hampshire’s settlement has vexed state officials. Tuesday’s proposal was informed by 52 written comments and 24 proposals sent to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services since 2016, according to the report.

Under the proposed plan, about half of New Hampshire’s share – $15.5 million – would go toward replacing fleets of publicly-owned, diesel-powered vehicles. Sixty percent of that would go to municipalities and school boards, requiring a 20 percent nonfederal match to qualify.

The demand is high. Approximately 4,300 municipal vehicles and 160 state vehicles could feasibly qualify for a replacement, although the money doesn’t go deep enough to cover all of them, according to the OSI report.

Meanwhile, $4.6 million would be set aside for charging stations for electric cars; with another $11 million to cover administrative costs and project proposals from public and private entities.

But the plan is far from final; the public has until June 5 to submit written comment. Public input sessions will be held between April 30 and May 15; a hearing in Manchester is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. May 10 at City Hall.

In a statement Tuesday, the governor called the funding an opportunity to better the state’s emissions output and save money.

“Together, we can take advantage of this non-taxpayer funded money to focus on issues that matter for New Hampshire: a stronger economy, a cleaner environment, and a reduced tax burden,” he said.