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Wisconsin to use Volkswagen diesel fines for new diesel buses

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Several Wisconsin cities and one county are getting new diesel buses thanks to fines that Volkswagen paid for cheating on emissions tests, but environmentalists say officials are missing an opportunity to spend the money on even “greener” electric vehicles.

Wisconsin is to receive $67 million over the next decade to offset the effects of pollution, The Wisconsin State Journal reported. Of that, $32 million will be spent on new buses in Appleton, Eau Claire, Green Bay, Janesville, La Crosse, Madison, Racine, Sheboygan, Wausau and Milwaukee County.

The money is part of the $2.9 billion settlement Volkswagen agreed to pay for violating the Clean Air Act by selling diesel engines with software designed to trick emissions tests.

Almost all of the new 58 buses will have diesel engines, which generate about twice the climate-warming emissions that electric-powered buses do. Only Racine plans to buy electric buses.

Environmental advocates say it’s a shame that more of the money isn’t being used for electric vehicles.

“The VW settlement is a unique opportunity that should be used to cover the premium of zero-emission vehicles, not to subsidize a city’s regular procurement budget for status-quo technologies,” said John-Michael Cross of the nonprofit Environmental and Energy Study Institute. “Transit agencies should be working to leap ahead and electrify their fleets as quickly as possible.”

Madison plans to begin using electric buses in 2020. In the meantime, the city’s new diesel buses will help reduce the number of cars on the road, said Jeanne Hoffman, the city’s facilities and sustainability manager.

“Single-occupancy vehicles are by far the biggest emitters of air pollution and climate change emissions in the transportation sector,” Hoffman said.

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