En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists give Pa. an F

State isn’t spend­ing enough of $118M fund on clean fuel, they say

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By An­thony Salamone

Penn­syl­va­nia is in a unique po­si­tion to pivot away from tra­di­tional sources of fuel, namely ga­so­line, en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists say.

But they ar­gued Tues­day at a news con­fer­ence at the Al­len­town Arts Park that the state is fail­ing badly so far as it pays for pro­grams through a $118 mil­lion set­tle­ment fund for the state with Volk­swa­gen over the com­pany’s emis­sions cheat­ing on its ve­hi­cles.

“Un­for­tu­nately, our score­card gave Penn­syl­va­nia an F for how it’s us­ing VW set­tle­ment money in ways that will pro­tect pub­lic health and our en­vi­ron­ment,” said Amanda Lapham of Pen­nEn­vi­ron­ment, one of the au­thors of the study. “Our re­search found that Penn­syl­va­nia’s fund­ing struc­ture heav­ily fa­vors dirty diesel buses over elec­tric buses.”

Pen­nEn­vi­ron­ment and Pen­nPIRG Ed­u­ca­tion Fund re­cently re­leased a re­port card on how states are us­ing their share of the set­tle­ment money. Penn­syl­va­nia’s F joined 13 states and Puerto Rico with the same mark, with the state cited for fail­ing to make elec­tric ve­hi­cles a pri­or­ity.

The state pro­gram, Driv­ing PA For­ward, has dis­trib­uted about 10% of the money, in­clud­ing some lo­cally. Northamp­ton County Coun­cil­woman Tara Zrin­ski said the county and the Al­len­town Park­ing Au­thor­ity have re­ceived more than $100,000 worth of grants for 13 elec­tric-ve­hi­cle charg­ing sta­tions.

How­ever, more needs to be done, she said.

“Driv­ing PA For­ward means go­ing way un­der the speed limit,” Zrin­ski said.

An­drea Wittchen of Lower Sau­con Town­ship, who op­er­ates a sus­tain­abil­ity con­sult­ing firm called iSpring As­so­ci­ates, said the state should ded­i­cate much of the fund to­ward re­plac­ing gas-guz­zling pub­lic and school buses with elec­tric fleets without cost­ing tax­pay­ers.

“Why sink that money into old-tech so­lu­tions?” Wittchen said. “It makes no sense.”

In an email, spokes­woman

Deborah Klenotic of the state Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion, which ad­min­is­ters Driv­ing PA For­ward, said of­fi­cials are not pre­clud­ing elec­tric ve­hi­cles.

She said the pro­gram has ap­proved about $2.3 mil­lion that will add 542 elec­tric ve­hi­cle charg­ing plugs. That’s on top of 480 avail­able charg­ing sta­tions with 1,169 plugs statewide. She said the state ranks 14th in the coun­try in terms of the num­ber of plugs.

Klenotic said four of seven ap­proved pro­pos­als of­fer fund­ing for diesel-to-elec­tric pro­jects. The re­main­ing three pro­grams of­fer fund­ing for in­fras­truc­ture for elec­tric cars and trucks, as well as aux­il­iary elec­tric power for ships in port.

“For ev­ery state, Volk­swa­gen stip­u­lates that up to 15% of its set­tle­ment fund­ing can sup­port elec­tric ve­hi­cle charg­ing, and we’re award­ing the full 15%,” she said.

But the speak­ers at Tues­day’s event, in­clud­ing about two dozen stu­dents from an en­vi­ron­men­tal values and ethics class at Le­high Univer­sity, said more needs to be done in sup­port of elec­tric.

“I think there’s a lot of sup­port for it [us­ing elec­tric ve­hi­cles],” said Breena Hol­land, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science. “But I do think the in­fras­truc­ture is huge, be­cause peo­ple have to find a place to plug in.”

The re­port card comes weeks after Gov. Tom Wolf an­nounced $8.5 mil­lion in awards from the set­tle­ment. The groups at Tues­day’s news con­fer­ence said most of that money is ben­e­fit­ing diesel-fuel pro­jects, such as re­plac­ing older diesel ve­hi­cles with newer diesel ones.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.