Governor Announces Grants to Reduce Transportation Sector Emissions
BOSTON — The Healey-Driscoll Administration today made a total of $11.5 million in grant funding available for low- and zero-emission vehicle and equipment projects that will help to reduce transportation emissions across Massachusetts.
The grant program, administered by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), will utilize $7.5 million from the Volkswagen emissions fraud settlement and $4 million from the Climate Protection and Mitigation Expendable Trust (Climate Trust).
"Our administration is committed to decarbonizing the state's transportation system, which represents approximately 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions," said Governor Maura Healey. "I was proud to lead our state's efforts to hold Volkswagen accountable when I served as Attorney General, and it is exciting to be able to use that settlement to catalyze economic development today. These creative investments will help move Massachusetts toward a clean energy future."
The $7.5 million available for a wide range of electrification projects is part of a multi-phase approach by the Commonwealth to spend its $75 million share of the $2.925 billion settlement between Volkswagen and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The $4 million from the Climate Trust, which will be used for low- and zero-emission refuse truck projects, stems from MassDEP's 2030 Solid Waste Master Plan, which calls for electric and hybrid electric refuse and recycling trucks that serve residents across the state.
Both programs have a focus on prioritizing funding for projects in environmental justice communities. By placing these vehicles in these communities, the program will deliver cleaner air to where residents live, work and play. In selecting projects, one criterion MassDEP considers is whether a project provides environmental benefits and reduces environmental burdens in environmental justice communities. Also, non-government applicants located in or operating in these communities and government applicants are eligible for the highest funding level of 60 percent.
"Cleaner and greener waste and recycling trucks will lead to cleaner air in all of our communities, but especially in environmental justice neighborhoods that are already overburdened with air quality problems," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper. "This program will help improve residents' health by lowering pollutant levels that affect the most vulnerable among us."
According to MassDEP Commissioner Bonnie Heiple, "These grants will take old, polluting trucks, buses, and boats off our roadways and out of our waterways and replace them with new, cleaner alternatives. These creative funding mechanisms help us make progress on the Healey-Driscoll Administration's ambitious clean energy and climate goals."
Under the $7.5 million Volkswagen Electric Solicitation Grant Program, applicants may apply for up to $500,000 in competitive funding to replace an older medium- or heavy-duty diesel vehicle or non-road equipment with an equivalent new electric version. Engine replacements, also known as "repowers," also are allowed. Eligible highway diesel vehicles include medium and large trucks, school buses, transit buses, and shuttle buses with 2009 and older model year engines. Eligible non-road equipment includes cargo handling equipment, forklifts, locomotive switchers, airport ground support equipment, and ferries and tugboats. Funding to provide electric shore power for ocean-going vessels also is available.
Under the $4 million Low- and Zero-Emission Refuse Truck Program, applicants may seek funds to replace any model year diesel waste or recycling trucks with plug-in hybrid, or fully electric versions. The grants for all project types will also cover the cost to purchase and install electric vehicle supply equipment to charge the funded equipment.
Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, September 26, 2023. Interested applicants can find the online application form on the MassDEP website. Further information on the Volkswagen Settlement can be found here.
In 2016, the U.S. DOJ, acting on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, California and a multi-state coalition led by then-Attorney General Maura Healey, sued Volkswagen for installing illegal software that allowed certain model year Volkswagens, Audis, and Porsches to skirt federal and state emissions tests. Vehicles equipped with the software – known as "defeat devices" – were found to have emitted nine to 40 times more nitrogen oxide (NOx) than was legally allowed by national and state regulations. Exposure to NOx, which contributes to the
formation of ground-level ozone or smog, can lead to health issues such as impaired lung function, increased asthma attacks and inflammation of the airways.
In addition to offering buyouts to the owners of the defective vehicles and numerous other measures, Volkswagen was required by the DOJ settlement to fund a $2.925 billion environmental mitigation trust fund. Every state in the country has received a portion of the fund, based on the number of vehicles registered and equipped with the software in the state. Massachusetts's $75 million share is based on more than 14,000 vehicles registered with the unlawful devices.
In addition to the federal settlement, Massachusetts – through the efforts of then-Attorney General Maura Healey's Office and MassDEP – reached settlements in the state's litigation with Volkswagen that included significant consumer relief and the largest-ever state environmental penalty of more than $20 million.
MassDEP's mission is to protect and enhance the Commonwealth's natural resources – air, water and land – to provide for the health, safety and welfare of all people, and to ensure a clean and safe environment for future generations. In carrying out this mission, MassDEP commits to address and advance environmental justice and equity for all people of the Commonwealth; to provide meaningful, inclusive opportunities for people to participate in agency decisions that affect their lives; and to ensure a diverse workforce that reflects the communities we serve.