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How should Pa. spend $118M earmarked for diesel-engine cleanup?

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Pennsylvania officials are seeking ideas on how to spend the state's share of a settlement reached over emissions violations by Volkswagen.

State officials expect to receive between $110 million and $118 million over the next 10 years as a result of the settlement, which followed charges that Volkswagen vehicles exceeded federal emissions limits.

To settle charges, Volkswagen agreed to create a $2.7 billion trust fund. All states, as well as D.C., Puerto Rico and Indian tribes, are eligible for a share.

The money is supposed to go toward reducing smog-forming emissions from diesel engines, whether they power cars, trucks, buses, trains or other vehicles.

In a draft plan, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection identified the kinds of projects that could be funded by the commonwealth's share.

They include replacing diesel engines with electric engines in trucks and buses, as well as ferries, tug boats and airport ground vehicles. The department also has identified possibilities in converting forklifts and port cargo-handling equipment, among other vehicles.

The department said it expects to focus on distribution centers, airports, bus terminals, ports and other areas with high concentrations of diesel engines.

The department also cited areas where it would like to see lower emissions from diesel engines, including the Interstate 81 corridor, which carries heavy truck traffic through Central Pennsylvania.

The money could come through grants, contracts, rebates, pilot projects. DEP said it expects to work with numerous partners, both private and public, in allocating funds.

Several legal steps are necessary before any money can be spent, DEP said. But officials are moving ahead to seek input on its plans.

They are planning a webinar on May 23, as well as a series of public meetings in June. The first is scheduled for June 5 at DEP's southcentral regional office at 909 Elmerton Ave. in Harrisburg.

Public comments will also be accepted online or via email at ecomment@pa.gov, with the comment period ending July 5, DEP said.

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