Healthy Utah

Red Air Update

Utah will use a portion of the Volkswagen settlement to buy cleaner school buses.


In our February issue, Utah Stories featured a cover story about the problems related to Utah’s Red Air, its causes, and its negative health and economic effects: Inversion Alert! Never Trust Air You Can See—Update on Utah’s Red Air.

One of the few positives mentioned in the story was that the state of Utah would be the recipient of court-ordered fraud-related penalties concerning Volkswagen, which admitted last year to deliberately cheating emission control standards by installing secret software in 475,00 of its cars in 2015, allowing those cars to pass emission tests. In reality, the vehicles emitted up to 40 times the federally mandated emissions levels.

Utah’s share of the roughly $15.2 billion dollar settlement equates to $42.5 million dollars in compensation to fund clean air legislation—even more than originally estimated.

On May 17, The Salt Lake Tribune reported that “The state will use $7.5 million in federal settlement money tied to Volkswagen vehicles that cheated emission tests.”

The money will be used to purchase about 60 new fuel-efficient school buses at a cost of $120,000 to $140,000 per bus. Furthermore, Governor Herbert has asked school districts to match the state’s contribution, marking a small but positive push to eliminate the roughly 4,500 dirty diesel buses that transport Utah school children daily.

The new buses may run on compressed natural gas, or they may be clean-diesel models. Either way, the new buses are expected to help significantly mitigate dangerous diesel particulate emissions.

An additional $35 million dollars in compensation to the state from the settlement has not yet been earmarked.

Despite the good news about buses, the governor’s commitment to cleaner vehicles was compromised when he refused to veto a bill that would end tax credits for buyers of new electric cars. He also prevented a ban on wood burning that would allow people to cook food during periods when other forms of burning are prohibited, although he is currently reviewing that bill.

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