- Associated Press - Thursday, August 30, 2018

CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois will use the $108 million it got from the government’s Volkswagen emissions scandal settlement to improve air quality, mostly by replacing old diesel engines with more environmentally friendly options.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Volkswagen reached a series of settlements in 2016 and 2017 to resolve U.S. complaints. The complaints alleged that Volkswagen sold nearly 600,000 diesel automobiles from 2009 to 2016 that were equipped with computer software that cheated federal emissions tests. Some of the money is being used for clean-air programs across the U.S.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency director announced the “Driving a Cleaner Illinois” program on Wednesday.

“Commuter rail projects will remove some of the oldest, dirtiest diesel engines in Illinois from service,” said Illinois EPA Director Alec Messina.

Transit agencies, cities, schools and businesses may submit ideas to the Illinois EPA to receive money from the program. The funds will be distributed over 10 years. The first round of grants will provide $20 million to commuter rail and public transit bus projects in the Chicago area.

The Illinois EPA funding proposal is an adjustment from the agency’s previous plan, which had proposed spending most of the money on “off-road technology,” replacing older locomotives, ferry and tug diesel engines with newer, cleaner ones.

Environmental groups complained that the Illinois EPA developed its prior plan without the same opportunities for public comment offered in other states. The new proposal comes after three public meetings were held.

The announcement comes as Rauner is locked in a race for governor against Democrat J. B. Pritzker, who had unveiled his plan to tackle climate change.

Applications for funding are due October 15.


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