In letters submitted to state policymakers, the Diesel Technology Forum (DTE) said that investing the proposed $2.7 billion Environmental Mitigation Trust from the Volkswagen settlement in advanced clean diesel technology would be the most cost-effective and immediate way to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in the U.S.
“Replacing older heavy-duty vehicles and off-road equipment with the latest clean diesel technology will greatly reduce NOx emissions and improve air quality,” wrote Forum Executive Director Allen Schaeffer.
“The most cost-effective strategy to reduce NOx emissions from diesel sources [is] investments in the latest clean diesel technology. As a result of decades of research and investment, clean diesel technology yields near-zero emissions and is widely available today to provide immediate-term air quality benefits,” he continued.
The partial consent decree opened for public comment in June and includes a $2.7 billion Environmental Mitigation Trust to “fully mitigate the total, lifetime excess NOx emissions” generated by the 550,000 light-duty Volkswagen diesel vehicles found to have been outfitted with the means to skirt emissions standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
DTE expressed concerns that the $2.7 billion trust currently prioritizes less developed technologies, many of which are not currently available. In August, the Forum filed comments with the U.S. Department of Justice noting that the current proposal may fall short of mitigating the lifetime total emissions of NOx prescribed by the court due to a funding scheme that favors less effective and sometimes unavailable technologies when compared with documented benefits of advanced clean diesel technology.
The forum’s comments to the Department of Justice called for a more technology-neutral approach for allocating funds, urged equal treatment of government and private fleets, and outlined the additional air quality benefits that several states could achieve if they were to accelerate the replacement of older diesel trucks with newer clean diesel models.
“Recent evidence suggests that investments in proven and available clean diesel technology are a more cost-effective investment to reduce NOx and achieve the clean air priorities established by the trust,” Schaeffer wrote in his letter. “The U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that 1 ton of NOx emissions may be eliminated by investing, on average, $20,000 in clean diesel technology versus, on average, $1 million in electric infrastructure.
“Clean diesel technology has an impressive track record when it comes to improving the environmental performance of older equipment and vehicles through replacement and modernization programs. Through the Diesel Emission Reduction Act [DERA], a program managed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 335,000 tons of NOx have been reduced by modernizing or upgrading 73,000 older vehicles and equipment mostly by the adoption of clean diesel technology between 2008 and 2013.
“State air quality regulators around the country have much experience when it comes to managing diesel emission reduction programs, including those funded through the DERA program and maybe a valuable asset in managing the historic VW Environmental Mitigation Trust,” he added.
As previously reported, Volkswagen AG agreed to provide a settlement totaling more than $15.3 billion in response to its diesel emissions cheating scandal. In addition to the $2.7 billion in fines owed to the EPA and CARB to offset diesel emissions, the settlement also called for approximately $10 billion to either buy back or fix the “cheating” vehicles and $2 billion to be invested in green energy funds and zero-emission vehicle efforts.