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Under Pressure from Environmental Groups, Illinois EPA Announces More Public Hearings for VW Settlement Funding

CHICAGO, May 16, 2018 – Last week, under pressure from environmental groups, the Illinois EPA (IEPA) announced it would host three additional public outreach sessions on its draft plan to use the state’s $108 million allocation as part of the Volkswagen diesel scandal settlement.

The Illinois EPA has posted a Draft Beneficiary Mitigation Plan detailing its proposal to spend 65 percent of funds on locomotive and non-road projects. CACC believes this allocation towards locomotives is disproportionate to NOx emissions sources in our region. IEPA’s own studies show that diesel emissions from locomotives only account for three percent of emissions in the Cook County, while emissions from the on-road diesel vehicles such as commercial trucks and buses are responsible for 29 percent of NOx emissions.

The new public hearings will be held in the evening from 6 – 8 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Wednesday, May 23, Illinois EPA Headquarters (North Entrance), Sangamo Conference Room, 1000 East Converse, Springfield
  • Thursday, May 24, St. Paul Baptist Church, 1500 Bond Avenue, St. Louis
  • Wednesday, May 30, James R. Thompson Center, Auditorium, 100 West Randolph, Chicago

“‪Chicago Area Clean Cities and its stakeholders support an open process for consideration of Illinois’ $108 million share of the VW Settlement,” said John Walton, chair, Chicago Area Clean Cities. “This has not been an open process, and so far, most of the IEPA’s process has taken place behind closed doors. There should be hearings that are transparent like in other states. There are many experts on clean transportation whose voices should be heard.”

Another example of the lack of transparency, said Walton, is survey results asking for public comment about the IEPA’s plan have not been made public. “Those results should be made public immediately,” Walton said.

This is the third part of a record $14.7 billion settlement in the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal. According to the agreement and a mitigation trust fund that was established, $2.7 billion is being allocated to individual states, based on the number of affected Volkswagen owners, to use as the states see fit. The State of Illinois’ share of the settlement is $108 million.

“The $108 million could serve as a catalyst to reduce pollution and spur economic development in Illinois over the next 10 years.” Walton added. “We suspect that options for using the funding in the wisest manner have not yet been examined. The IEPA, as appointed by the governor to oversee this fund, seems to have a plan that hasn’t yet been fully vetted.”

Recently, the Illinois Senate passed Senate Bill 3101 that would make it a law to have an oversight committee decide how the $108 million for Illinois is to be spent. The bill has been sent to the House. Chicago Area Clean Cities supports that bill, Walton said.

“The final plan should rely on the best way to reduce pollution per dollar spent, and an oversight committee should oversee the decision-making process,” Walton said. “We hope the IEPA will listen and incorporate the feedback it hears from the public, environmental groups, and clean-transportation experts on how the VW funding should be spent in Illinois.”

The IEPA’s initial window for public input was February 28 to April 20, 2018, while other states have allowed for up to a year of public hearings on how their share of the total $2.7 billion would be spent.

“In addition to reducing pollution, this money should be spent in Illinois,” Walton said. “There are dozens of Illinois businesses that specialize in clean-vehicle technologies, conversions, and alternative fuels. Spending large portions of this money with companies outside of Illinois is not a good solution to help economic development in Illinois.”

IEPA’s VW Settlement webpage, available at www.epa.illinois.gov/topics/air-quality/vw-settlement/index, includes information on the Agency’s Draft BMP and other aspects of the VW Settlement. Public comments on the draft plan should be sent to EPA.VWSettlement@illinois.gov.

Chicago Area Clean Cities (CACC) is a nonprofit coalition whose mission over the last 24 years has been to support local actions to improve the environmental performance and efficiency of public and private fleets in the six-county Chicago metro area. CACC’s membership is comprised of local governments, corporations, small businesses, and individuals. These stakeholders come together to share information and resources, educate the public, help craft public policy, and collaborate on projects that reduce pollution.In 2016, CACC stakeholders reduced more than 26 million gasoline gallon equivalents (GGEs) of petroleum and 230,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That is the equivalent to carbon dioxide emissions from 3,100 tanker trucks’ worth of gasoline.

CACC is one of more than 90 coalitions across the country that are affiliated with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program, which brings together stakeholders to increase the use of alternative fuel and advanced-vehicle technologies, reduce idling, and improve fuel economy and air quality. CACC concentrates its efforts on educating businesses and municipalities in the six-county Chicago area, including Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties. To become involved or learn more about the coalition visit www.chicagocleancities.org.

 

News Media Contact:   

Joe Koenig
(708) 613-5005

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