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[ Volkswagen Settlement to Clean PA Air ]

Pennsylvanians could be breathing a little easier after the state puts its share of the multi-billion-dollar settlement with Volkswagen to use. Gov. Tom Wolf announced Thursday that $118 million will be used to help clean up the air in the Keystone State.

Volkswagen had rigged computers in diesel-fueled cars to turn on emission controls during testing, but scale them back during normal driving. The state will use some of the settlement money to fund replacements and upgrades of diesel engines in everything from school buses to tugboats.

And Joseph Minott, executive director and chief counsel with the Clean Air Council, says the money will also help fund critical infrastructure for electric cars and trucks.

“That’s what car owners and truck owners want to do,” says Minott. “We know that’s the right thing for the environment. And I hope that the words of the governor translate into really promoting electric vehicles.”

The money will fund eight grant and rebate programs over the next five years with a goal of reducing nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel engines by almost 28,000 tons.

Minott says it would be a significant improvement in air quality.

“Diesel in general is serious, especially in congested areas like Philadelphia and Allegheny County, and so it’s great that the primary focus is going to be on reducing diesel emissions,” says Minott.

He adds the real challenge is to move away from using fossil fuels entirely, as quickly as possible.

Right now, the range of an electric vehicle is limited by the availability of charging stations. Minott points out that with enough quick-charging stations, electric vehicles could travel from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.

“So a lot of that money has to go into building the infrastructure across the state, with the primary focus initially in large urban areas,” says Minott.

The governor says up to $39 million will be available for grants and rebates in the first year of the program.

-Andrea Sears, Keystone State News Connection

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