While we appreciate that Governor Ducey’s plan dedicates the majority of the VW Settlement Funds to replacing dirty, old school buses, the plan can and should be improved in the following manner prior to its final adoption:
1. Purchase electric school buses vs. new diesel school buses. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s recent Electric Buses report provides details of the benefits of electric vs. diesel buses. We acknowledge and appreciate emission reductions from replacing an old diesel bus with a new diesel bus; however, switching to electric buses can provide even more emission reductions.
The Arizona PIRG Education Fund recognizes that a new diesel bus is currently less expensive than a new electric bus; therefore, more diesel buses can be purchased. That said, the goal to protect public health should be a 100% switch to zero emission electric buses, which result in no harmful tailpipe emissions, and that goal can best be met by starting now. Electric buses save fuel and maintenance costs – cost savings that can be reinvested in additional electric buses. Investing VW funds in electric school buses will give the greatest long-term benefits for air quality and public health.
2. Invest in electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund was pleased when Governor Ducey committed Arizona to the Regional Electric Vehicle (REV) West Plan. A statement from the link to the REV plan reads “Arizona joined Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming (Signatory States) in signing the REV West memorandum of understanding(PDF) (MOU) to create an Intermountain West Electric Vehicle (EV) Corridor that will make it possible to seamlessly drive an EV across the Signatory States' major transportation corridors.”
The governor’s plan should be amended to ensure the maximum allowed 15% of the VW settlement funds are allocated to building an electric vehicle charging infrastructure along our highways, in concert with the REV West Plan.
3. Conduct public stakeholder meetings that include opportunities for public engagement. Early on, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) weighed in with our proposal on how the Environmental Remediation Fund should be used in Arizona. Other entities and individuals have done the same, but there have been no public meetings and no chance for the public to comment on drafts of the plan. The public was negatively impacted by the issues stemming from VW’s pollution; citizens should have the opportunity to publicly voice their concerns to those determining how the funds will be spent.