RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced more than $10.5 million in funds from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust, administered by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, to replace 83 diesel school buses with electric and propane buses in 19 school districts across Commonwealth.
By providing funds for clean school buses, the Department of Environmental Quality will help Virginia achieve clean energy goals, reduce air pollution, and mitigate climate change. The grant that provides the money for this initiative came from a Trust funded by the Volkswagen settlement that is working to reduce emissions and support environmental programs.
“We all benefit from transitioning away from diesel school buses and investing in clean alternatives for our transportation system,” said Governor Northam. “I know how important clean air is for children’s health. Since I took office, the Commonwealth has been focused on transforming the electric grid, developing clean energy resources, and addressing the climate crisis through initiatives that allow Virginia to invest in a clean and healthy future.”
Governor Northam announced the launch of the $20 million program in May 2021 to help transition school buses away from diesel and toward cleaner fuels like electricity and propane. The program’s investments in clean alternatives, which are intended to reduce harmful vehicle pollution, have helped accelerate an equitable transition to a cleaner economy for all Virginians.
“It is encouraging to see how successful the funds from the Volkswagen settlement have been in supporting clean alternatives for transportation,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “We have been clear that Virginia's environment is a top priority. I am proud that this settlement is being used to support important causes, like providing clean, safe, and healthy transportation for children going to and from school.”
The attorney general's office announced a settlement with Volkswagen in 2016 that committed $2.7 billion to environmental mitigation. This settlement has provided the funding for many eco-friendly initiatives across the Commonwealth. The attorney general's negotiations of this settlement secured resources for environmental causes for many years to come, and reinforces Virginia’s commitment to a clean economy.
“The Northam administration has remained committed to fighting the impacts of climate change and finding solutions that help Virginians every day,” said Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Replacing aging and dirty buses is not only better for the health of school children, it also saves school divisions tens of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a bus and helps advance Virginia’s clean energy goals.”
“Virginia’s investments in electrifying the school bus fleets is an important and critical part of our comprehensive approach to reducing pollution,” said Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor. “Collectively, the replacement of these school buses is calculated to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10,000 tons per year, and will save one million gallons of diesel fuel, equivalent to removing 2,000 cars from the road.”
Award recipients for the first round of clean school bus alternatives include:
In September 2019, Governor Northam directed $20 million from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust to support new initiatives aimed at deploying electric school buses across the Commonwealth.
“Many of our families struggle to make ends meet,” said Halifax County Public Schools Director of Transportation Tammy Lacks Moore. “These funds will enable us to replace 10 diesel buses without raising taxes on our already burdened population, all while making sure we are doing everything we can to help improve our community.”
“The clean bus award will make a powerful impact for Essex County Public Schools and advance our transition to an electric fleet,” said Essex County Public Schools Transportation Supervisor Crystal Blowe. “This is a wonderful opportunity for Essex County students to ride the bus to and from school in an emissions free environment.”
“We are proud to set an example for our students and show that we are intently working towards, and contributing to, a brighter environmental future,” said Augusta County Public Schools Director of Transportation Terry Lafon. “With these funds, we will be doubling our fleet of electric buses and replacing 1996 and 1997 diesel buses, which will immediately benefit riders with a major reduction in both noise pollution and carbon fuel emissions.”
“Being selected to receive funds for 10 propane buses expands our ability to provide safe, reliable, and clean transportation for our students who deserve nothing but the best,” said Newport News Public Schools Director of Transportation Shay Coates. “As a major organization within our community, we feel we must set the example in protecting our environment.”
The Department of Environmental Quality is responsible for distributing Virginia’s share of $93.6 million from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust by investing in a diverse range of technologies that provide cost-effective, near-term emission benefits coupled with zero-emission technologies that provide long-term benefits.
To date, approximately $62 million has been awarded for innovative projects including electric transit, school and shuttle buses, electric equipment at the Port of Virginia, and the development of a statewide electric-vehicle charging network.
The Department of Environmental Quality will begin accepting applications in October for an additional round of funds for public school districts to purchase more propane or electric school buses. Sign up here to receive updates on funding opportunities.
Additional information on the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust and efforts to reduce air pollution in Virginia is available on the Department of Environmental Quality’s website.
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