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Good and Bad in Texas Plan to Spend Volkswagen Settlement Funds; Opportunity for Electric Vehicles

Aug. 9, 2018

Good and Bad in Texas Plan to Spend Volkswagen Settlement Funds; Opportunity for Electric Vehicles

Statement of Adrian Shelley, Director, Public Citizen’s Texas Office

Note: On Wednesday, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality released a draft plan (PDF) outlining how Texas will spend the $209 million in settlement funds from the Volkswagen emissions scandal. Comments on the plan are due on Oct. 8.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s plan for spending the Volkswagen settlement funds is a mixed bag, with both encouraging and confounding elements.

One of the best features of the plan is that Texas will offer grants for clean transportation projects, including up to 60 percent of the cost of electric vehicles to replace older government or privately owned vehicles. The plan also dedicates $31 million to the zero emissions vehicle program, which will fund electric charging stations and possibly hydrogen fuel cells. Electric vehicles are the future of clean transportation in Texas and elsewhere.

But some of the most cost-effective projects were left out of the plan. Volkswagen vehicles fitted with emissions-cheating devices spewed tons of illegal nitrogen oxide pollution into the air, which in turn forms ground level ozone. Although Texas claims to prioritize funding for cost-effective reductions of nitrogen oxides, the plan excludes funding for freight switchers, tugs and tow vessels, which are among the most cost-effective projects available in terms of their ability to reduce air pollution and protect public health.

Another problem is the plan’s lopsided funding for certain areas of the state, which excludes Austin entirely. Austinites purchased more Volkswagens per capita than people in other Texas cities, so we believe Austin should receive funding.

Public Citizen urges the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to remedy these defects in the draft plan. We are very pleased about the plan’s opportunities for electric vehicles and look forward to a clean transportation future in Texas.