Minnesota officials want to hear from the public as to how to invest $47 million from a national Volkswagen settlement for a "better, cleaner Minnesota environment."

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency released Wednesday the state's plan to invest the funds after a 2016 federal court ruling found Volkswagen programmed diesel cars to cheat on emissions tests, which spewed hundreds of tons of excess pollution into the state's air.

"The funds Minnesota is receiving through this settlement have provided our state a unique opportunity to improve the quality of our air and our environment," Gov. Mark Dayton said in a news release.

The draft of the plan is open for public comment through March 19. During the 30-day public comment period, MPCA will conduct public meetings around the state to gather feedback, including one at the MPCA offices, 7678 College Road, Suite 105, Baxter, on March 5.

"I encourage Minnesotans to offer their input during this public comment period, so that we can deliver the best possible plan to provide cleaner air and an even better environment for our children and grandchildren," Dayton said.

Key themes that surfaced included cost effectiveness, electric vehicles, alternative fuels, and reducing pollution in local communities. The MPCA incorporated these priorities in the draft that calls for spending the money in three phases, targeting $11.75 million in the first two years.

Visit the MPCA's Volkswagen settlement webpage at www.pca.state.mn.us/air/volkswagen-settlement to learn more about the settlement, view the plan, and get more information about upcoming public meetings.

Once the final plan has been submitted the court-designated trustee, the MPCA, will begin soliciting applications for local community projects, likely this summer.

Volkswagen vehicles parked at the Brainerd Industrial Center on Mill Avenue are part of the massive diesel recall campaign by German automaker Volkswagen AG. VW agreed to pay as much as $15.3 billion after admitting it cheated on U.S. diesel emissions tests for years, agreeing to buy back vehicles from consumers and provide funding that could benefit makers of cleaner technologies.