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Health, Science, Environment

Volkswagen settlement could overhaul Missouri's aging fleet of school buses

A school bus.
Vipal | Flickr

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources proposes spending the $41 million it received from the Volkswagen settlement last year on replacing school buses and other heavy-duty vehicles. 

The German automaker agreed to spend billions of dollars to settle allegations of cheating emissions standards. Missouri is among the states that received some of those funds to address nitrogen dioxide emissions. Nitrogen dioxide is a component of ozone pollution, which can cause respiratory health issues, such as asthma. 

Heavy-duty vehicles are a major contributor to nitrogen dioxide emissions.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources proposes spending most of the funds on replacing trucks, buses and mass-transit vehicles with new vehicles or engines. The department proposed to spend the biggest portion, $12 million, on school buses, since much of the feedback it received from stakeholder meetings asked for improvements to school buses. 

"This is one way we can get to a proactive measure to address vehicles that we otherwise wouldn't have an ability to help with," said Darcy Bybee, director of the state's air pollution control program.

In December, the Missouri Electric Vehicles Collaborative, consisting of Ameren Missouri, the Missouri Sierra Club and other environmental groups and utility companies, recommended that $35 million to be spent on electric vehicles and infrastructure. The plan calls for some spending on electric-vehicle charging stations and replacing old airport and cargo equipment with electric technologies.

However, the plan could do better for the sake of public health and the environment, said John Hickey, director of the Missouri Sierra Club. 

"We think the plan could be improved by having more incentives for switching from dirty diesel to clean electric, instead of from dirty diesel to a little-less-dirty diesel," he said. 

The state agency will finalize its plan for spending the settlement funds in June. 

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