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State seeks input on using Volkswagen settlement funds

— State officials are seeking residents' input on how to spend the $112.7 million Washington could receive from a federal settlement with Volkswagen to reduce diesel air pollution.

A webinar on using the money is set for 10 a.m. Nov. 28 and a Facebook streaming town hall is set for 6 p.m. Nov. 29.

“This settlement represents an opportunity to begin building a transportation system for the next 100 years in our state,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “By investing in zero emission or near-zero emission vehicles, vessels, and infrastructure, we can dramatically reduce pollution, better protect the public, and slash carbon emissions in Washington.”

State officials released a draft plan on spending the money Thursday.

Under the plan, the settlement funds could pay for projects that install electric vehicle charging stations, replace diesel engines in buses, public vehicles, and vessels with electric engines or cleaner diesel engines, or make other investments in reducing diesel emissions in Washington.

Legal residents can review the proposed plan and provide feedback online or by mail to: Brett Rude, Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504-7600. Comment are due by 9 a.m., Dec. 19, 2017.

The negotiated $14.7 billion nationwide settlement follows Volkswagen's violation of the federal Clean Air Act after the automaker admitted installing illegal software on many of its diesel vehicles to cheat emissions tests.

As a result, these vehicles emitted up to 40 times the permitted levels of nitrogen oxides — a harmful air pollutant linked to asthma attacks and increased deaths from respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

Approximately 24,000 of the affected vehicles were registered in Washington, making the state eligible for $112.7 million from the settlement.

Gov. Inslee charged the state Department of Ecology with developing a plan for use of the money and making sure it meets the settlement requirements.

“By cheating emissions tests, Volkswagen exposed Washingtonians to more pollution and threatened their health,” Ecology Director Maia Bellon said. “Using this settlement to right those wrongs and protect our communities in the future is the best investment we can make.”

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