Volkswagen settlement to fund cleaner-burning school buses

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – A total of 93 Kentucky school districts have applied for and been awarded $8.13 million to replace 169 older diesel school buses with cleaner diesel or propane buses, Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Goodman announced Tuesday.

The money comes from part of the state’s share of funds from a settlement with Volkswagen over fuel-efficiency errors.

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“The past year has been enormously difficult for Kentucky’s school districts, and this is one area where we can give them much-deserved support,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in announcing the funding. “These buses will better protect our environment and will mean healthier air for the children in these 93 districts.”

In 2016, the U.S. Justice Department settled claims against Volkswagen for using defeat devices in 2009-2016 Volkswagen diesel vehicles, which allowed the vehicles to emit up to 40 percent more nitrogen oxides than allowed under the Clean Air Act.

As Attorney General, Beshear secured Kentucky’s share of the settlement, $20.3 million awarded from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust. In his first budget as governor, he recommended the settlement funds be used to replace more than 150 school buses across the state.

The Kentucky General Assembly authorized $8.5 million to reimburse local school districts for up to 50 percent of the cost to replace up to five school buses per district. Buses to be replaced were those in daily operation with a chassis year of 2001 or earlier.

The 2020 General Assembly developed a spending plan for the funds and approved expenditures beginning July 1, 2020. There is $393,000 remaining in the fund.

Fiscal Year 2020 authorizing legislation provided that unexpended Restricted Funds appropriated shall become available for expenditure in the 2020-2022 biennium.

A number of area school districts are among those receiving the funds. A complete list of the school districts replacing buses can be found here.

Under the program, districts receive reimbursement once they show they have received the new bus and stopped using the old one.

“We are thankful that so many school districts were able to take advantage of this program,” Goodman said. “We will work closely with them throughout the scrappage and reimbursement process.”

“These new buses will be safely transporting the next generation of students for years to come,” said Kentucky Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass. “This reimbursement will make a big difference for local districts as they replace their buses with healthier and more sustainable vehicles.”

Kentucky’s proposed Beneficiary Mitigation Plan (BMP) and other resources associated with the Settlement and Trust, can be found at:  https://eec.ky.gov/Energy/Pages/Volkwagen-Settlement.aspx.