In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed a complaint against Volkswagen alleging that they violated the Clean Air Act. During normal operation and use, the vehicles emitted levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) significantly in excess of EPA’s compliance levels.
Volkswagen was found guilty and agreed to pay up to $14.7 billion to settle. As part of the lawsuit, Volkswagen is required to establish and fund an Environmental Mitigation Trust. Over the next 10 years, $2.9 billion from the VW settlement will then fund environmental mitigation projects that reduce emissions of NOx.
Each state receives a set amount based on the number of affected vehicles sold in the state. Missouri will receive $41 million as a part of the settlement. Eligible projects that can be funded through this trust include class 4-8 school bus, shuttle bus — and transit bus replacement.
On Monday, October 2, 2017, the Department of Justice filed the executed trust documents with the court, finalizing the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust. The Trust Effective Date establishes the timeline for state beneficiaries of the trust. In accordance with the trust agreement, Missouri will facilitate the distribution of the $41 million in funds to reduce mobile source air pollution emissions.
Public Transit can be an integral part of the mitigation solution. Transit bus replacement is allowed under the eligible project lists.
“Transit service in this state has a direct impact on our environment. According to national transit experts, public transportation produces 95% less carbon monoxide, 90% less volatile organic compounds (vocs) and about half as much carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide per mile compared to private vehicles. With more people using public transit, we decrease our reliance on fossil fuels. If one in 10 Americans used transit regularly, U.S. reliance on foreign oil could decline by more than 40%, or nearly the amount of oil imported from Saudi Arabia each year. In addition, according to the American Public Transit Association the state receives a $4 return for every one dollar invested in transit. The Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust is an opportunity for Missouri to make a significant difference in our environment and the state’s economy by investing in transit. We are recommending that MoDNR consider transit as part of the mitigation solution,” said Kimberly Cella, Missouri Public Transit Association Executive Director.
Over the next several months, Missouri Department of Natural Resource’s next step is to solicit and collect stakeholder input for the development of the Beneficiary Mitigation Plan before distributing the funds. The Department created a webpage devoted to the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust: http://dnr.mo.gov/env/apcp/vw/index.html
Stakeholders can weigh in right away on the website. There will also be public meetings held.