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What to do with Volkswagen’s fine? Utah guv says buy new school buses

First Published      Last Updated May 16 2017 10:51 pm

Volkswagen will be buying Utah students new, cleaner school buses, Gov. Gary Herbert told fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at Ensign Elementary School on Tuesday. The state will use $7.5 million in federal settlement money tied to Volkswagen vehicles that cheated emission tests.

It is a move sought by Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, who has repeatedly attempted to sponsor legislation intended to replace those buses with cleaner models.

He estimates the cost of a modern bus at roughly $120,000 to $140,000 each. That would mean the state would be able to buy about 60 new ones with the Volkswagen money. To cover the cost of even more buses, Herbert called on Utah school districts to match the state' contribution to the effort.




Overall, Utah has about 4,500 old, polluting diesel buses still on the roads, Handy said. "There has been a lot of support, but no funding."

During the past legislative session, Handy sponsored a resolution encouraging Utah to use the Volkswagen settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency on school buses. The money would go to either cleaner-burning diesel models or those that run on compressed natural gas.

The $7.5 million is just part of a fraud-related penalty Volkswagen has agreed to pay, said Alan Matheson, executive director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. Utah will receive another $35 million to mitigate the environmental impact of Volkswagen's noncompliant vehicles, but the state has not yet decided how to distribute those funds, Matheson said.

Volkswagen agreed to pay billions of dollars nationwide in penalties after the company admitted that more than a half million vehicles it produced and sold in the U.S. contained a device that allowed them to cheat federally required emissions tests.

Herbert also touted Chevron's recent announcement that it would produce cleaner Tier 3 fuel at its Salt Lake-area refinery before ceremoniously signing nine air-quality bills from the 2017 session.

He also defended the Legislature's vote to end tax credits for electric cars, saying the tax credit was not widely used.

Herbert reiterated a promise to revisit a bill that prevents state regulators from banning resident from burning wood to cook food.

epenrod@sltrib.com

Twitter: @EmaPen

 

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