Spearman Wants New Buses

Seeks funds from VW settlement

South Carolina Radio Network
April 19, 2018 - 12:02 pm
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APRIL 19, 2018 BY RENEE SEXTON (South Carolina Radio Network)

The South Carolina Department of Insurance is working on a plan to distribute just under $34 million the state will receive in a settlement with Volkswagen. Under the litigation settlement, each state will be reimbursed for damages caused by emissions from Volkswagen vehicles.

“We will be making recommendations on how that $34 million is spent in our state,” said Ray Farmer, Director of the South Carolina Department of Insurance.

The department has invited the public to submit comments on the Draft Beneficiary Mitigation Plan. Comments can be submitted by mail, online or by attending a public meeting on May 1. Click here to read the DBMP.

“Once the plan is finalized we’ll have a request for applications on how those projects can be funded,” Farmer said. “There are a number of eligible projects that could be funded and it goes from school bus, shuttle bus and transit buses.”

Farmer said South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman has contacted his department about using some of the money to replace the state’s aging bus fleet, including one model in particular that has been prioritized for replacement due to fires.

“As a result of the NOx emissions that VW put into our environment, this is a settlement for the entire state,” he said.

According to Farmer, heavy duty diesel vehicles account for about 33 percent of the nitrogen oxides (or NOx) emissions in South Carolina. Light duty trucks and cars contribute 34 percent of NOx emissions in the state.

The plan is to take some of those vehicles off the road.

“That diesel engine goes out of service,” Farmer said. “I think a hole is driven in the middle of that engine so it cannot be used anymore. So we are required to spend the money on those type projects that will replace engine for engine.”

The 50 states are dividing $2.95 billion in the settlement.  Governor Henry McMaster designated the Department of Insurance as the lead agency in the trust allocation.

“We have had experience in grant programs before,” Farmer said of the decision. Also the department is a cabinet agency with no interest in the trust distribution.

“Anyone that will be an interested party in this process, we don’t regulate,” he said. “So we don’t really have any stake in the regulation of anybody that’s involved and we can make an independent judgment and an independent decision.”

Farmer said all comments will be given equal weight and will be factored into the final decision.

Comments will be accepted in writing until May 25. Comments can be mailed to South Carolina Department of Insurance, Attn: Kendall Buchanan, 1201 Main Street, Suite 1000, Columbia, South Carolina 29201.

The public comment meeting on May 1st is from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. at the South Carolina Bar Conference Center, 1501 Park Street Columbia, South Carolina 29201.

All meeting participants seeking to comment during the meeting are asked to submit written copies of their remarks at the time of the meeting for recordkeeping purposes. All organizations or interested parties planning to attend the public meeting should register in advance by emailing the names and affiliations to vwsettlement@doi.sc.gov no later than Friday, April 27, 2018.

“We welcome and encourage South Carolinians to participate in the public meeting,” Farmer said.

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