Representatives Jonathan Hecht and John Lawn joined 36 other legislators who weighed in on the allocation of $75 million that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is scheduled to receive from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund, the two reps from Watertown announced. Members urged the Department of Environmental Protection, which is charged with dispensing the money, to invest in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and invest the balance of the funds in fully-electric transit and school buses.
The money will be received as part of a multi-state settlement with Volkswagen after it used a cheating computer system that ran emissions controls during testing but not during normal vehicle operation. Emissions from these vehicles were 15-40 times the federal Environmental Protection Agency compliance level. Volkswagen has agreed to spend nearly $15 billion on remedial action, including $2.9 billion that is being divided up among participating states and territories.
“Transportation emissions account for over 40% of the Commonwealth’s greenhouse gas emissions,” said Representative Hecht (D-Watertown). “If we are serious about addressing climate change, we need to move from fossil fuel-powered transportation to clean electricity-powered transportation. The VW settlement money provides us with an opportunity to jumpstart that transition.”
In supporting electric vehicle charging infrastructure, legislators argued that charging stations need to become much more common across the state to give drivers convenient access to charging, overcome ‘range anxiety,’ and raise public awareness about the practicability and feasibility of purchasing an electric vehicle (EV). With a focus on equity, legislators pushed for EV charging at workplaces and multi-unit dwellings, locations more likely to be used by people of modest means without access to charging at home because they lack off-street parking.
Legislators urged the department to dedicate substantial amounts of funding to upgrade transit and school bus fleets to fully electric vehicles. While newer diesel and compressed natural gas vehicles emit lower levels of NO x gases than older models, electric buses emit no NOx at all and would improve air quality in areas that are heavily reliant on public transportation. Though electric buses have higher sticker prices, they have much lower lifetime maintenance costs.
“This is a great way for the Commonwealth to improve air quality while encouraging citizens to be more environmentally friendly,” added Representative Lawn (D-Watertown). “This funding will also continue to educate children and adults about the desirability of carbon free transportation.”
Byron Rushing (D-Boston), House Assistant Majority Leader, voiced his support for the effort as well, stating: “The Volkswagen settlement money has presented the Commonwealth with a unique opportunity to make progress towards electrifying our transportation sector, essential to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality. If used conscientiously, we can expand electric vehicle access to middle- and low-income drivers and protect our most vulnerable populations, including our children, from the negative health effects of smog.”
The Department of Environmental Protection is in the midst of a stakeholder process to seek further input from the public on projects to fund. To submit comments, please visit