Make VW Pay

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says Volkswagen designed some 567,000 "clean" diesel cars to violate the law. They built elaborate software, called a "defeat device," to turn on emissions controls during testing and turn them off during regular driving. By cheating the law, VW ripped off hundreds of thousands of consumers who thought they were buying clean vehicles. They put our health at risk, emitting as much as 40 times the legal limit of smog-forming pollutants.

Yet, their deceit and the subsequent settlement now represents a historic opportunity to drastically reduce the harmful pollution that makes us sick and accelerates climate change by providing an essential down payment toward the transition to a clean and modern 21st century transportation system. 

According to the terms of the VW settlement, agreed to by VW and the Department of Justice, VW will pay a total of $14.7 billion in damages for their role in violating federal clean air laws.

Out of the total settlement, $2.7 billion will be distributed to states specifically to reduce NOx pollution, a major component of diesel exhaust. Each state will be required to ask for the funds and to develop a plan for how the money will be used to reduce NOx emissions. 
 
NOx poses a serious threat to human health and has been shown to aggravate and even contribute to the development of respiratory illnesses. NOx is also a key component of smog, which has similar respiratory and health impacts and contributes to acid rain. In addition, diesel exhaust, which contains NOx, carbon dioxide (CO2), particulate matter, and other pollutants, was classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization in 2012.
 
Given the unique challenges and opportunities in each state, the settlement leaves a good amount of flexibility in how the money may be used. However, that flexibility presents its own challenges, opening up the possibility of squandering the money on older, dirtier technologies like diesel and natural gas, while forgoing clean, electric alternatives. Such a move would represent a massive missed opportunity to transition to a cleaner, healthier and modern all-electric system, while only realizing marginal pollution reduction benefits. 
 
Transitioning to all-electric alternatives can reduce long-term costs, gas consumption and harmful pollution, while bringing our outdated transportation system into the 21st century. Therefore, it is essential that these funds be invested wisely.
 
Ensuring that the funds are used wisely will result in several distinct benefits including, but not limited to:
  • Drastically reducing NOx, ground-level ozone (smog), and particulate matter;
  • Significantly reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions; 
  • Reducing long-term fuel consumption, maintenance, and operation costs of public fleet vehicles;
  • Adding needed stability to the price of energy inputs for vehicles;
  • Increasing public awareness and adoption of electric vehicles as cleaner alternatives to traditional gas-powered vehicles. 
To ensure this opportunity is not lost, we're educating the state agencies entrusted with these funds and urging them to spend the maximum allowable amount (15 percent) on electric vehicle charging infrastructure for the state’s highways, while investing the remaining funds on replacing outdated, dirty transit buses. We believe that this is the best possible use of the funds to reduce harmful pollution, lower costs and accelerate a market transformation to an all-electric, 21st century transportation system. 
 
Simultaneously, we are acting to educate and mobilize the public on this opportunity, and bring together likeminded advocates from across the political spectrum to do the same. As leaders in the movement to hold VW accountable, and because of our previous work to ensure a fair and beneficial settlement to VW consumers and the general public, we are uniquely positioned to continue leading this fight. However, if we do not act now, this opportunity will pass and state decision makers may use these funds in counterproductive ways, missing the opportunity to make a substantial down payment on a cleaner, healthier transportation system.
 

Issue updates

Blog Post | Transportation

How Deadly are Your State’s Roads? | Sean Doyle

A new report by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute shows which states have the safest and most dangerous roads.  Here's how the states rank and what we can do about it.

> Keep Reading

How Volkswagen Could Compensate Diesel Owners

We explain the core demand of our "Make VW Pay Campaign" in this story by New York Times columnist Ron Lieber:

He asks: "Why not just ask for whatever the cars were worth on the day before news of the scandal broke"

Our reply: "Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at U.S. PIRG, says that the drivers deserve more."

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection, Make VW Pay

We Launch “Make VW Pay Campaign” Over EPA Cheating Scandal

Today we launched a “Make VW Pay Campaign” as VW's CEO resigned over the scandal surrounding its "defeat device" scheme (and subsequent cover-up) to trick EPA pollution monitoring computers in nearly half a million diesel cars sold in the U.S. We are demanding a full rebate in buy backs to customers and other accountability.

> Keep Reading
Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Who Pays for the Road

Many Americans believe – erroneously – that the money they pay in gasoline taxes and other “user fees” covers the cost of building and maintaining our streets and highways. In fact, local roads and bridges are almost always paid for through local property taxes, while the share of the nation’s highway construction and repair bill paid by gas taxes has been dwindling over time. Since 2008, the federal government has diverted $52 billion in general tax revenue to the Highway Trust Fund – more than the nation has spent to subsidize Amtrak in its entire 42-year history.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Media Hit | Transportation

Fort Worth Weekly: Too Imminent

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Texas Senate passes bill to extend property rights," said a Houston Chronicle headline. Folks such as local rancher Billy Mitchell ought to be thrilled, right? In recent years, government agencies and private companies have used eminent domain powers to force North Texas property owners like Mitchell to sell their land for what amounts to private development — natural gas pipelines, gas rigs, privately owned toll roads, Trinity River Vision-type projects, or just the expansion of a shopping mall. Activists have been hoping that legislation would be passed this year to add protections for property owners. The issue draws a broad spectrum of support, and activists thought new legislation might be doable even in a Republican-dominated legislature. But Mitchell isn't thrilled. He's mad.

 

> Keep Reading
News Release | TexPIRG | Transportation

Eminent Domain Bill Will Not Protect Landowners

Lawmakers fast tracked legislation masked as eminent domain reform through the Senate this week without giving the public adequate opportunity to participate in the process. Cloaked in the guise of eminent domain reform, Texas State Senators rammed through legislation authored by State Senators Craig Estes and Robert Duncan, which will benefit utility companies, the oil and gas industry, real estate developers and even private toll road investors before it ever has the opportunity to work on behalf of the citizens and landowners of Texas.

> Keep Reading
News Release | TexPIRG | Transportation

Eminent Domain "Reform" Bill is the Trans-Texas Corridor on Steroids

Officials fast tracked legislation masked as eminent domain reform through the Senate today without giving the public adequate opportunity to participate in the process. Cloaked in the guise of eminent domain reform, Texas State Senators rammed through legislation that will benefit utility companies, the oil and gas industry, real estate developers and even private toll road investors before it ever has the opportunity to work on behalf of the citizens and landowners of Texas.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Transportation

Dallas Morning News: Texas Senate passes property rights bill

Legislation aimed at strengthening the rights of property owners in eminent domain cases in Texas won unanimous approval in the Senate on Wednesday. Critics believe the legislation will benefit utility companies, the oil and gas industry, real estate developers and private toll road investors before it ever has the opportunity to work on behalf of the citizens and landowners of Texas.

> Keep Reading
News Release | TexPIRG | Transportation

Myth Busted: Road Costs Not Covered by Gas Taxes

A new report released today by the Texas Public Interest Research Group disproves the common misconception that road-building is paid for by user fees, showing that gas taxes cover barely half the costs of building and maintaining roads, a fraction which is likely to fall steadily. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

View AllRSS Feed

Support Us

Your donation supports TexPIRG's work to stand up for consumers on the issues that matter, especially when powerful interests are blocking progress.

Consumer Alerts

Join our network and stay up to date on our campaigns, get important consumer updates, and take action on critical issues.
Optional Member Code