For Ramon Balencia, the answer to reducing vehicle emissions is simple.
“We’re advocating to commit those funds for clean zero emissions electric school buses across Maryland,” explained organizer with the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Ramon Balencia.
Balencia is one of the more 30 residents gathered at the municipal annex in Frederick to express ideas on how to spend $75.7 million set aside for the state as a part of the Volkswagen Environment Mitigation trust.
In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency found “defeat devices” in over 400,000 Volkswagen vehicles that allowed 10-40 times the legal limit for Nitrogen Oxide.
“They admitted about 400 to 1,600 tons of excess emissions over the time period from 2009 to 2015. Our chief emission problem is about ground-level ozone and nitrogen oxide is the leading cause of that,” explained Tim Shepherd with the Maryland Department of the Environment.
Several state departments have drafted a plan on how to spend the money and reduce emissions.
The Maryland Mitigation Plane is divided into four categories of projects including private business and federal government and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
Balencia argues officials should focus more on the health concerns of diesel-powered school buses, and favor implanting electric ones.
“Children, their lungs are still developing, their brains are still developing. A lot of the diesel emissions affect their health, effect their lungs, increased asthma attacks,” Balencia said.
Officials say the listening session will better inform necessary changes to the plan and the percentage of money appropriated to each category of projects.
“No plan is perfect and that’s why we’re trying to meet with the people now to try and fine-tune this and see what we did that wasn’t proper,” Shepherd said.
For more information on the Maryland Mitigation Plan, click here.