Volkswagen settlement: What we've heard

The MPCA held a series of public meetings to discuss the settlement and to answer questions regarding settlement details. Listening session attendees were asked to identify the three factors that matter most to them by placing dots on an interactive poster. The same questions were posed in an online survey. Use this interactive tool to see what we've heard so far:

Key themes

The following is a summary of comments received by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) regarding the use of Volkswagen settlement funds in Minnesota and the shaping of Minnesota’s Beneficiary Mitigation Plan as of January 5, 2018.

We have received 311 total comments, submitted by 274 unique commenters. We have received a wide variety of input emphasizing the importance of many different issues and providing lots of excellent suggestions. Not all of the ideas we have heard could be captured here. The following, therefore, are some of the major themes and issues that commenters have indicated are most important to them.  

Electricity can power light-duty cars as well as some heavy-duty vehicles and equipment. Funds from the VW settlement could be used for electric charging stations for light-duty vehicles or to replace heavy-duty vehicles and equipment with electric versions.

Of the 274 unique comments, 126 of them (46%) support the addition of EV infrastructure, including charging stations. This is the highest proportion of comments received on any single topic. Commenters make suggestions for the locations of the charging stations, including major roadways and travel corridors, especially at small, locally owned gas stations and convenience stores, and multi-family dwellings. Many commenters support the use of renewable energy, especially solar, to power these stations.

We received 54 comments in support of the use of electric buses, predominantly for public transit, but also school buses.  There are a total of 77 comments that recommend replacing fleet vehicles; of those, 41 (53%) specify that the funds should be spent to electrify fleet vehicles.

Fuels such as propane or natural gas can power many heavy-duty vehicles and equipment instead of using diesel. Funds from the VW settlement could be used to replace old diesel equipment with equipment powered by other fuels.

Of the 274 comments, 36 of them (13%) are in support of propane school buses, particularly in Greater Minnesota. Many of these same commenters (19, or 53%) are in support of propane-run fleet and freight vehicles, in addition to school buses. Many commenters also supported opportunities for using compressed and liquid natural gases. These fuels were especially supported by commenters whose businesses rely on the use of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, such as waste haulers.

Diesel emissions are harmful to human health, and in Minnesota people of lower income and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to diesel pollution. Funds from the VW settlement could be focused on projects that would provide most health benefits, especially to vulnerable communities.

Of all the comments received, 47 (17%) support environmental justice-related uses of the VW funds. The majority of these comments focus on concerns about helping low-income communities. There are 45 comments relating to health and exposure concerns (16%), most of which focus on children.

The settlement outlines a very specific list of project types that are eligible for funding through this program. Within that list, Minnesota has the flexibility to select or emphasize project types that reflect the state’s priorities.

Some commenters stated preferences for project types that they feel will bring the most benefits to Minnesota. We received 76 comments (28%) support replacing school buses with cleaner equipment, nearly all of whom specified preferences for either propane or electric options. Forty-nine commenters (18%) support funding upgrades to transit buses, half of whom recommended adopting electric technology. 

Many commenters also supported using funds to replace diesel trucking fleets (46 comments, or 17%) and grow Minnesota’s Diesel Emission Reduction Act program, which upgrades a wide variety of heavy-duty equipment, including construction equipment.

The comments offer a wide range of other suggestions, some of which are not eligible for funding based on the requirements of the settlement. Ideas include using funds for rail and light rail-related projects, supporting clean energy and infrastructure development, offering rebates for the purchase and ownership of EVs, supporting biofuel research, helping to improve indoor air quality issues, and grant matching for EV purchases for fleets.

Community meetings

The MPCA has held nine community meetings around the state in 2017. Some of the key themes we heard as part of those meetings include:

Many meeting participants told us to ensure that funding reaches across the state and benefits many communities in ways that make sense for those areas. In Greater Minnesota, we heard about community concerns about the exposure of children to emissions during long bus rides to school, as well as concerns about traffic along busy roadways. We heard a strong call to make sure that funding is invested in rural areas and smaller metropolitan areas, as well as the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

In the Twin Cities, we heard many community concerns about the many pollution sources that people are exposed to in urban areas, and especially concerns about environmental justice. Many community members told us to focus efforts in areas where there are intersections of pollution sources, poverty, and communities of color. We heard about the importance of reducing emissions from transit buses, especially since they are a critical mode of transportation for many lower-income people. Many community members also commented on garbage and recycling trucks that drive down every street making stops.

We have heard from many participants that the MPCA should strive to develop a simple, user-friendly application. We have heard that we should provide information and answer questions to help applicants fill out any necessary forms. Many community members also expressed that the MPCA should work on ways to get the word out, especially in communities that have historically struggled to access state grant funding.

At many meetings we have heard an interest in advancing Minnesota’s transportation sector towards alternative fuels. We heard a lot about the advantages of fuels such as propane, natural gas, and electric in terms of lower emissions and reduced maintenance and operating costs. We heard from many people who have first-hand experience with different fuel types being used in different types of equipment and different operating conditions.

We have heard from many Minnesotans who would like to see funds invested in electric vehicle charging stations across the state. Participants have expressed particular interest in fast-charging corridors that would allow all Minnesotans to travel around the state by electric vehicle. We heard from EV users and people who would like to use an EV all over the state who encouraged us to provide the infrastructure that they need to use their EV more broadly to travel outside their immediate communities, especially in Greater Minnesota.

If you have any questions or additional comments you would like us to consider, please e-mail us at to