DEQ says VW Settlement money will bring more charging stations to ND

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BISMARCK, N.D. - North Dakota will spend the money it gets from the Volkswagen emissions settlement by giving grants to several public and private entities. The state is limited to use the funds on projects that will cut nitrogen oxide emissions.

DEQ received 35 applications for everything from charging stations to replacing large trucks and buses.

North Dakota got $8.1 million to spend, which is on the low side compared to other states. California, got more than $400 million. Now the goal is figure out how to get the most of a little pot of money.

DEQ told legislators Thursday it will soon give out the first $2.7 million of the state's share from the Volkswagen lawsuit.

"We did receive more applications than we are able to fund, so we are currently working on the review process to determine which of those applications we are able to fund,” said Angela Seligman, an environmental scientist with DEQ.

The company cheated emissions tests for six years with technology that would show cars were giving off fewer emissions during testing. The settlement money will go to more than replacing high emission cars and trucks, but also allow states to spend money on infrastructure like electric charging stations. Seligman says the department plans to spend the max amount on charging stations, $1.2 million, next year.

"People seemed very excited about those and since there is a cap limit on the charging stations, but we are also able to spend money on those vehicle replacements at the same time in this first round of applications, we figured this was the best route to take for the public,” said Seligman.

The push for more electric cars even sparked a request for $205,687 from the North Dakota Department of Transportation. It wants to install charging stations at six locations across the state, with the goal of eventually adding electric vehicles to the state 3,187-vehicle fleet.

"In order to talk about electric vehicles and charging stations, you have to have some costs in the game,” said Linda Sitz, the strategic innovations manager for the NDDOT.

Sitz says the goal is to add two or three vehicles at each location. Lawmakers weren't taking sides on the plan, but want the department to make sure it is a worthwhile investment. Sitz says it’s more than convenience.

“We want to make sure there are charging stations across the state so that citizens don't have to worry about safety. You know if you're traveling from point A to point B, you want to make sure there's a charging station just like there's a gas station,” said Sitz.

DEQ will have $1.5 million in 2020 to spend on large and small vehicle replacements. Seligman says different vehicles and equipment have different reimbursement rates.

The 34 applications were about 1 million dollars more than the state can spend in the first year. Seligman says the hope to send out letters awarding the money in the next few weeks with another round of applications starting in the late summer or early fall of 2020. She said plans like public charging stations would be rated higher than private projects.