Following studies, surveys, meetings, and public comment periods, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has released a Draft Beneficiary Mitigation Plan regarding the Volkswagen Settlement. FDEP, the administer of these funds, will be gathering additional public comments through August 16, 2019. We invite you to submit additional public comments to demand clean, electric energy.
The plan identified three Eligible Mitigation Actions, with 70% of funds allocated to school, transit, and shuttle bus upgrades.
Issued in partial fulfillment of diesel emissions mitigation obligations under the settlement, the Plan left out a crucial commitment to clean, electric fuel sources. From an initial review, it looks like FDEP took the public’s comments to heart regarding our priority to upgrade school buses. We challenge FDEP to take a step further. We want investments in clean, electric school buses for the health of our kids.
During the public comment period in April 2018, respondents ranked potential projects, with these notable survey results:
- Highest priority was given to projects that replace diesel units with alternative fuels and/or electric vehicles and equipment
- The second highest priority was given to projects that focus on communities that bear a disproportionate share of the air pollution burden.
- 1,900+ respondents ranked school buses, shuttle buses, and transit as their number one project recommended for funding
- More than three out of four respondents were interested in allocating funding to diesel emission reduction.
A total of 2,023 surveys were collected across the state, with the highest participation in Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Broward counties. FDEP has identified Air Quality Priority Areas, including primary urbanized areas of Miami, Broward, Palm Beach, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Pensacola.
”The people’s voice is clear: we want clean energy solutions,” said South Florida Lead Organizer, Olivia Nedd. “Every school day, diesel buses expose almost 3 million children to toxins and known carcinogens. While the Plan recommends ‘alternative fuel’ as an option for replacing diesel vehicles, we want FDEP to commit to replacing eligible units with 100 percent electric-power.”
Last year, Florida Conservation Voters Education Fund launched the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign in partnership with the League of Conservation Voters Chispa Program. During FDEP’s initial public comment period, thousands of Floridians submitted comments urging them to use the $166 million in settlement funds to upgrade diesel-fueled school buses to electric.
In 2015, VW revealed they secretly and deliberately installed a defeat device designed to cheat emissions tests administered by federal and state regulators, impacting nearly 590,000 of their diesel vehicles sold. VW agreed to a $14.7 billion settlement to compensate vehicle owners and to invest in zero-emission vehicles. Florida received $166 million as a result of the settlement. The settlement money has already been allocated to electric upgrades in some states, including Washington, who used $13.3 million to purchase 50 zero-emission electric buses.
What’s next in this fight for our children’s future? We continue to speak up. FDEP will be collecting additional public comments until August 16. We urge you to quickly and conveniently submit your demand for clean, electric school buses through our one-click submission form. To move Florida towards a clean energy future, we need your voice now more than ever. Our kids deserve nothing less.