US ports could tap multibillion Volkswagen settlement for clean air projects

US ports could tap multibillion Volkswagen settlement for clean air projects

Ports could benefit from Volkswagen's punishinments for manipulating emissions data to deceive regulators.

U.S. ports could tap $4.7 billion in funding from Volkswagen’s settlement with the federal government and Californian authorities on emission violations to fund projects aimed at reducing nitrogen oxide emissions.

Ports could receive funding through the $2.7 billion the German auto manufacturer will put into an emissions reduction program and $2 billion that will be put toward zero emission technology investments. The money could help ports pay for more environmentally friendly drayage trucks, rail freight switches, ferries and tugs, cranes, yard equipment and other projects that reduce diesel emissions.

“This funding would help U.S. ports reduce NOx emissions in and around their facilities,” American Association of Port Authorities President and CEO Kurt Nagle said in a statement. “It would also help AAPA’s members continue their commitment to sustainability, clean energy and the health of coastal ecosystems.”

Volkswagen over the next three years will put the $2.7 billion toward the emission reductions program into a mitigation trust, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The automaker, which rigged 475,000 diesel vehicles in the U.S. to hide that they didn’t meet emission standards, will over the next decade funnel $1.2 billion into an EPA-approved plan to invest in zero emission technology, and $800 million will go toward a similar initiative in California.

Ports need all the help they can get, considering the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland alone would need to spend billions of dollars to meet potential environmental rules, according to an engineering report. To replace terminal operating equipment and related infrastructure to meet the rules, the trio would have to spend in total $7 billion over the next 30 years, according to the report by port-planning firm Moffatt & Nichol and commissioned by the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents West Coast terminal operators and shipping lines.

Since California’s stricter environmental rules tend to be adopted eventually by other states, ports are working to get ahead. Others such as the Port of New York and New Jersey are already grappling with pressure to replace old trucks or retrofit them with newer, less-polluting engines.