Following Public Input, NDEQ Develops Draft Plan for Nebraska’s Volkswagen Trust Funds
In September 2017, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) was designated by Governor Ricketts as the lead agency to administer funds allocated to the state from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust (VW Trust). As directed by the VW Trust Agreement, these funds are to be used to undertake authorized actions to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions in Nebraska. The initial allocation to Nebraska from the State Mitigation Trust is approximately $12.25 million.
NDEQ subsequently sought public input and has developed a draft mitigation plan to best utilize these funds to benefit Nebraska and meet the purpose of the VW Trust. NDEQ will accept public comments on this draft plan through December 31, 2017.
Draft Mitigation Plan Now Available on this page
Dec. 8, 2017 – NDEQ has completed the draft mitigation plan and is making it available for public review. The plan can be found at the top of this page. Comments will be accepted through December 31, 2017.
Electronic Comments Submittal Now Available
To submit comments electronically, and to view comments submitted, go to our Comments Page at:
Online VW Mitigation Comments/Records Page *
(The direct URL to the comments page is https://ecmp.nebraska.gov/DEQ-VW/ *)
In October 2016, a U.S. District Court granted final approval of a $14.7 billion settlement against Volkswagen (VW) and Audi for equipping more than 500,000 of their 2.0-liter diesel vehicles to falsify vehicle emissions tests in violation of the Clean Air Act. A second partial settlement with VW filed in December 2016 addresses vehicles containing 3.0-liter engines. These court settlements require VW to establish a $2.925 billion Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund to assist states and tribes to offset the excess nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution emitted by the offending diesel vehicles. Nebraska is eligible to receive approximately $12.25 million from the Trust, which will have a 15-year time span. No more than one-third of the available funds may be requested each year for the first three years of the Trust. NDEQ has filed forms with the court and with the Trustee to certify Nebraska as a beneficiary of the Trust; certification is expected by the end of January 2018.
Nebraska Mitigation Plan
As the state’s designated lead agency, NDEQ will administer how the VW Trust money will be distributed and spent in Nebraska. As required by the VW Trust, NDEQ worked with other sectors of state government to establish a public process to develop a plan to administer the funds.
As a beneficiary of the Trust, Nebraska is required to develop a Mitigation Plan that summarizes how the state intends to use the funds allocated to it under the Trust to achieve reductions in NOx emissions. The Mitigation Plan must include opportunities for public comment and must be submitted to the Trustee for approval at least 30 days prior to submission of any funding requests. The plan describes which eligible mitigation actions Nebraska will pursue, the expected emission reduction benefits, and how these benefits will affect areas in the state that are disproportionately affected by air pollution.
During development of the plan, NDEQ posted a Request for Comment document to solicit comments and held public information meetings in Lincoln on October 16, 2017 and in North Platte on October 18, 2017. Written comments were accepted at these meetings, through the web portal, and via e-mail from September 21 through November 3, 2017. A tabulation of the written comments is included as Appendix B of the Mitigation Plan.
Nebraska will continue to have flexibility even after the initial Mitigation Plan is submitted. During the course of the Trust, the state will be allowed to adjust its goals and selection of mitigation actions at its discretion by providing updated Mitigation Plans to the Trustee.
Mitigation Activities Eligible for Funding
Trust funds can only be expended for specific actions designed to reduce NOx emissions.
The eligible actions and their maximum allowed reimbursement percentages are spelled out in the court settlement and are detailed in Appendix A of the Mitigation Plan.
NDEQ has assessed the eligible mitigation activities in the context of Nebraska’s air pollution issues, population distribution, existing transportation infrastructure, estimated project cost-effectiveness, potential public health benefits, and public comments. The activities Nebraska proposes to pursue in the initial Mitigation Plan are outlined below, with the percentage of funds anticipated to be used for each.
Transit Bus Alternative Fuel Replacements (10% of funds)
NDEQ proposes to utilize 10% of Nebraska’s initial funding allocation, or approximately $1.2 million, to provide grants or rebates to replace up to 5 diesel public transit buses with new buses fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG) or with new electric buses. NDEQ anticipates providing funding covering 50% of the cost of each new bus.
School Bus Diesel and Alternative Fuel Replacements (25% of funds)
NDEQ proposes to use 25% of Nebraska’s initial funding allocation, or approximately $3 million, to provide grants or rebates to replace diesel school buses with new buses fueled by diesel, propane, or compressed natural gas (CNG). We anticipate providing public school districts with funding covering 50% of the base cost of a new diesel bus or 60% of the cost of a new propane or CNG bus. Private schools will be eligible for a maximum reimbursement of 25% of the base cost of a new bus, as prescribed in the Trust agreement.
Light-Duty Zero Emission Vehicle Supply Equipment (10% of funds)
NDEQ proposes to utilize 10% of Nebraska’s initial funding allocation, or approximately $1.2 million, to provide grants or rebates to facilitate the acquisition, installation, operation, and maintenance of light-duty electric vehicle charging stations in Nebraska. Priority projects could include installation of DC fast-charging stations along Interstate 80 and community charging stations available to the public. NDEQ anticipates reimbursing 50% of the costs for charging stations available to the public on government—owned or non-government owned property.
Matching funds for projects eligible under the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (25% of funds)
NDEQ proposes to use 25% of Nebraska’s initial funds, or approximately $3 million, as a voluntary match or overmatch for annual EPA funding of the Nebraska Clean Diesel Program authorized by the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA). The DERA option allows use of Trust funds for any actions that are authorized by the DERA program, which includes a variety of diesel emission reduction actions, including on—road vehicle replacements and, in particular, engine replacements for non-road diesel equipment such as construction and farm equipment and agricultural irrigation engines.
Eligible Actions Based on Demand (25% of funds)
NDEQ proposes to use 25% of Nebraska’s initial funding allocation, or approximately $3 million, to fund other Eligible Mitigation Actions authorized by the Trust. Such projects might include replacement of medium to heavy-duty local freight, delivery, and utility trucks, replacement of airport ground support equipment with electric equipment, and replacement of large forklifts with electric equipment. The proportion of funds to be directed to these actions will be determined by the number, type, and cost-effectiveness of projects proposed. If there is insufficient demand for projects of these types, some of these funds may be redirected to one of the previously listed funding categories.
Administrative Costs (5% of funds)
NDEQ proposes to expend Nebraska’s initial funding allocation over a period of five years and to allocate up to 5% of this allocation, or approximately $612,000, for administrative costs.
Nebraska will implement Trust projects transparently and in a cost-effective manner. Documentation of Trust expenses will be made available to the public in accordance with Nebraska Public Records statutes and Trust requirements. NDEQ will account for Trust expenditures, conduct audits as necessary to ensure compliance with applicable requirements, and provide semi-annual reports to the Trustee as required by the State Mitigation Trust agreement. Documents submitted by project applicants in support of funding requests will also be made publicly available, subject to applicable laws governing the publication of confidential business information and personally identifiable information.
NDEQ is soliciting input from the public on Nebraska’s draft Mitigation Plan to reduce NOx emissions using funds provided by the VW Environmental Mitigation Trust.
Comments will be accepted through December 31, 2017.
Electronic Submission of Comments
The preferred method of submitting comments is through NDEQ’s on-line Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Plan comment portal:
This page allows members of the public to post comments and upload supporting documents. You will receive an e-mail acknowledging posting of your comment. You can also use the portal to search for and view posted comments.
Submission by Mail or E-mail
You may also submit comments to the Department via mail or e-mail as follows:
Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
Air Quality Division, Attn. VW Comments
P.O. Box 98922
Lincoln, NE 68509-8922
Other Parts of the Volkswagen Settlements
Buyback, Lease Termination, Vehicle Modification, and Emissions Compliant Recall Program
Volkswagen is required to earmark about $11.2 billion to buy back affected noncompliant vehicles, terminate leases early, or repair the vehicles by 2019 or 2020 depending on the make and model. Volkswagen administers this part of the settlement directly with affected vehicle owners. Additional information is available at www.VWCourtSettlement.com.*
National Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) Investment Plan
Volkswagen is required to invest $1.2 billion outside of California over 10 years to install and promote the use of infrastructure for zero emissions vehicles (ZEV). This part of the settlement will be administered by Volkswagen and the U.S. EPA in four 30-month investment cycles. The first round of project proposals closed January 16, 2017. Proposals for the second round are currently being accepted by Volkswagen. Additional information is available at www.electrifyamerica.com.*
* This Page contains links to Non-NDEQ websites, these links will open in a New Tab or Window