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Colorado Environmentalists Say Volkswagen Settlement Could Expand Electric Charging Stations

Gilbert Sopakuwa
A Volkswagen car in a showroom

Colorado is set to receive $61 million from German car maker Volkswagen as part of a nationwide settlement over the company’s violation of emission control laws. Environmental groups are pushing for a portion of that money to be used create a network of charging stations for electric cars.

The money, earmarked for emission reductions, will be distributed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
On Nov. 7, CDPHE held a public hearing, seeking input on specific uses for the money. Five groups participated in the hearing, including the nonprofit Colorado Public Interest Research Group. Director Danny Katz said  that the state should invest 15 percent of the settlement into electric vehicle charging stations across the state.
“One of the biggest barriers to someone purchasing an electric vehicle is a concern that they might run out of juice before they get to their destination,” Katz said, “especially if they are traveling anywhere along I-25 or going into the mountains.”
Frank Swain, energy advocate at Conservation Colorado, said Colorado is already one of the better states to buy an electric vehicle. 
“We should do everything we can to leverage these funds to transition to electric buses that would clean up air and noise pollution,” said Swain, “particularly in disadvantaged communities that suffer greater impacts from old, dirty buses.”
Erin Overturf is the senior staff attorney at Western Resource Advocates. She says electrification of Colorado’s transportation system will provide immediate improvements to air quality: 
“It will provide an opportunity for additional air quality improvements in the future, as our electricity generation continues its transition to zero emission renewable resources,” she notes. “Using the VW settlement money to support the transition to electric vehicles is a smart investment that will create jobs, protect public health, and help avoid damaging climate impacts.”
Katz says the money would allow for about 60 new charging stations, “electrifying” roughly 3,000 miles of major highways in the state.
CoPIRG and other environmental and health groups want the remaining 85 percent to be used for converting diesel-burning vehicles like buses and trucks to electricity.
Other groups commenting on the issue include the Natural Resources Defense Council and the  Southwest Energy Efficiency Project.
The money is the result of a $10 billion settlement with Volkswagen over emissions cheating and specifically nitrous oxide, the compound Volkswagen’s diesel cars were illegally emitting.