Missouri school districts angling for new buses as part of VW settlement

JEFFERSON CITY • Nearly 70 school districts across Missouri are hoping to win a lottery for new, cleaner-running school buses.

As part of an overall $41 million settlement stemming from Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has <a href="http://nie.post-dispatch.com/%3Ca%20href%3D"https://www.stltoday.com/business/millions-in-settlement-money-from-volkswagen-emissions-scandal-to-fund/article_71ab8f63-0324-57b4-b8d7-bcce0ea418d5.html"">https://www.stltoday.com/business/millions-in-settlement-money-from-volk... target="_blank">earmarked $12 million to replace aging school buses.</a>

Last week, the application period for the first round of the giveaway ended with 67 school districts and three bus contractors seeking a total of 137 school buses worth nearly $3 million.

Darcy Bybee, director of the DNR air pollution control program, said the state plans to provide financing for about half of the new buses that were requested this year, with the remaining funded in future rounds over the next eight years.

In August, the DNR announced it would use its portion of the Volkswagen settlement to help schools, local governments and others replace <a href="http://nie.post-dispatch.com/%3Ca%20href%3D"https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/missouri-wants-ideas-on-how-to-spend-money-from-volkswagen/article_934c8b9d-ede7-5464-9b2c-a9cd4e46e3ff.html"">https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/missouri-wants-ide... target="_blank">school buses, transit buses, train locomotives, ferries, towboats and airport and cargo equipment.</a>

An additional $6 million will go to install more electric vehicle charging stations.

Missouri’s s<a href="http://nie.post-dispatch.com/%3Ca%20href%3D"https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/settlement-from-vw-cheating-scandal-helps-shore-up-missouri-budget/article_6a816538-ec95-5092-999b-761ec816cf5d.html"">https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/settlement-from-vw... target="_blank">hare of the overall $14 billion settlement</a> with the German automaker was based on the 7,500 diesel vehicles in the state that the company equipped with “defeat device” software to cheat during emissions testing. Individual states had discretion about how to use their cut of the money.

In Missouri, the goal is to cut down on nitrogen oxide emissions, and that “most award categories will have competitive scoring of applications based on how cost effectively the project reduces (nitrogen oxide) emissions.”

Although the selected vehicle replacement programs generally will be based on matching and cost sharing, Bybee said the program’s first year would include a round of funding opportunities for economically disadvantaged school districts, where 100 percent of costs for new school buses would be covered.

In all, there are 29 districts, most rural, that could be in the running for those buses when the application period opens in the coming weeks.

“The department will enter each school district that applies into a drawing for a new bus in December 2018. Thirteen buses will be funded at or near 100 percent of the cost of a new bus,” Bybee said.

The agency plans to open the application period for government trucks and transit buses in the next few months.

As for which districts will receive money in the first round of school bus funding, Bybee said the agency plans to post the results soon.