MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Nearly $19 million is heading to Vermont after a settlement is Volkswagen's diesel deception case. But how is the state going to use that money? Officials are looking for your ideas.
State officials say Volkswagen willfully polluted Vermont's air. Now they want the public to drive how settlement funds will be spent.
"I think we're interested in everybody's perspective, and especially interested in people who are going to apply for these funds," said Agency of Natural Resources Deputy Secretary Peter Walke.
Volkswagen admitted to violating the federal Clean Air Act. The company sold half-a-million cars with devices designed to cheat emissions tests. As part of a settlement, the automaker created a nearly three billion dollar Environmental Mitigation Trust fund. Vermont's share is $18.7 million.
"Our goal is to use funds in a way that mitigates the harm caused by the VW vehicles that emitted excess pollutants," said Gov. Phil Scott.
Walke says the state wants to use the money to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. It will also spend as much as it can -- 15-percent -- on more electric vehicle charging stations.
The governor says more charging stations will attract tourists. "Our infrastructure -- charging infrastructure -- is something that would benefit a lot of us, and a lot of our tourism and so forth. I've mentioned this before, specifically with our Canadian trade and our tourism from across the border," he said.
The money could also help replace busses -- as many as it can. "The busses, in particular, are very expensive -- hundreds of thousands of dollars a piece. So when you do the math and you start figuring out how many busses we actually have in Vermont, it won't go far," Scott said.
The Vermont Natural Resources Council says the money should go towards electric vehicles. "I think electric's the way to go, and I think starting on those capital investments that benefit people in our communities, especially kids, people riding the bus, the drivers who drive those busses, is going to be a good way to go," said VNRC's Kate McCarthy.
Private businesses as well as public entities will be able to seek funding. A public meeting will be held on December 13. The money is expected to be released next year.