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Maryland plans to spend $76 million settlement from Volkswagen emission scandal to buy cleaner vehicles

Maryland officials proposed Thursday to spend the state's share of a federal settlement with Volkswagen — nearly $76 million — on programs to help businesses and government agencies buy cleaner vehicles.

The Maryland Department of the Environment plans to spend $34.8 million on state and local government transportation programs, including the purchase of new transit and school buses.

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It is budgeting $28.5 million for a competitive program through which private businesses will be able to apply for money to put toward replacing vehicles and equipment.

And it intends to spend $11.3 million on electric vehicle charging stations.

“The silver lining to VW’s environmental scandal is significant new funding for clean air and climate progress in Maryland,” Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles said in a statement.

The department will accept public comments on the proposed spending plan until Aug. 31 before adopting a final budget.

Josh Tulkin, director of the Sierra Club’s Maryland Chapter, called the state’s draft plan “a good start,” in a statement, but said “there is room for improvement.”

“We are excited to see millions of dollars proposed for investment into electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and we strongly affirm that the state direct investments into communities that have been overburdened by dangerous and harmful diesel pollution for decades,” Tulkin said.

The money is coming from a $2.7 billion trust fund Volkswagen is creating as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. It was revealed in 2015 that Volkswagen’s diesel vehicles had been equipped with devices that allowed these vehicles to emit far more nitrogen oxide emissions than legally allowed, while still passing emissions tests.

It is separate from a $33.5 million state settlement with Volkswagen that Maryland officials announced in April.

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