SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New electric buses for the City of Albuquerque, natural gas-powered shuttle busses for the University of New Mexico and dump trucks for a smattering of cities across New Mexico. That is what settlement cash from the Volkswagen emissions scandal is now paying for in the Land of Enchantment.

Its been more than five years since New Mexico announced it would receive nearly $18 million in settlement funds tied to the Volkswagen emissions scandal. Since then, the state has been dolling out millions of dollars towards projects meant to reduce or offset diesel emissions.

In the third and latest round of emissions reduction projects, New Mexico is pouring out roughly $7.3 million dollars towards 29 new city transit buses, school and shuttle buses, solid waste and public works vehicles. The last time New Mexico announced a payout of Volkswagen cash was in April 2020.

According to the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), the officially titled “Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Program” is meant to offset excess emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emitted by affected Volkswagen vehicles registered within New Mexico. In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that Volkswagen had violated the Clean Air Act, as roughly 590,000 vehicles were equipped with computer software designed to cheat on federal emissions tests.

Once those emission controls were disengaged on the road, NMED says Volkswagen’s affected vehicles spewed nitrogen oxides at up to 40 times the levels permitted under the Clean Air Act. NMED says NOx emissions are responsible for increased ozone, as well as increased nitrogen dioxide levels, both of
which have adverse effects on human health and the environment.

NMED says the vehicles being purchased with the latest round of settlement funds offset more than 15 tons of nitrogen oxides. Each of the funding recipients were chosen based on criteria including “reduction of emissions, environmental justice and impacted population, and cost effectiveness.”

Here’s a link to a full list of completed projects. Here’s the full list of the latest settlement fund recipients:

  • City of Socorro (Socorro County) – Six near-zero compressed natural gas refuse and dump trucks.
  • South Central Solid Waste Authority (Las Cruces, Doña Ana County) – Replacement of five class 8 diesel trucks.
  • San Juan County Public Works (Aztec, San Juan County) – Replacement of one diesel dump truck with snowplow attachment.
  • Santa Fe Solid Waste Management Agency (Santa Fe County) – Replacement of two haul trucks and one roll-off truck.
  • Santa Fe Public Schools (Santa Fe County) – Three electric school buses.
  • City of Albuquerque Transit Department (Bernalillo County) – Five electric transit buses.
  • University of New Mexico Parking & Transportation Services (Albuquerque, Bernalillo County) – Six near-zero compressed natural gas shuttle buses.