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to all-electric alternatives can reduce long-term costs, gas consumption and harmful pollution, while bringing our outdated transportation system into the 21st century.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

Media Hit | Make VW Pay

This Couple Is Driving Cross-Country To Return Their Polluting Jetta To VW Headquarters

Upset that Volkswagen deceived them into buying a not-so-clean diesel, Marcus Moench and Elisabeth Caspari are driving from Colorado to VW’s headquarters in Virginia to return their Jetta SportWagen TDI and drop off 20,000 petitions. I spoke with them about their journey. Here’s what they had to say.

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Media Hit | Make VW Pay

VW diesel owners on cross-country drive make Chicago stop to raise awareness

A Colorado couple on a cross-country drive to return their 2011 diesel Volkswagen Jetta to the automaker's U.S. headquarters in Virginia stopped in Chicago on Friday to raise awareness about the emissions scandal.

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Media Hit | Make VW Pay

Volkswagen diesel protesters stop by auto show

But now, after U.S. auto regulators revealed the automaker had installed software designed to cheat on emissions testing of VW diesel vehicles, the Boulder residents are driving cross-country to Volkswagen of America’s headquarters in Herndon, Va., to protest. They aren't the only ones.Greenpeace protesters have shown up in Europe to raise awareness of the issue as well.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Make VW Pay

Detroit Auto Show | Kathryn Lee

Marcus and Elisabeth made their way to the Detroit Auto Show over the weekend. As they drove across the country, on a mission to return their TDI to Volkswagen corporate headquarters in Virginia, the couple has been making stops along the way. The just missed Mathias Mueller as he toured the US, stopping at the Detroit Auto Show to try to make amends with customers. Saturday was the first day the show was open to the public. Marcus and Elisabeth first met with press across the street of the event and then went into building, heading straight to the Volkswagen booth.

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News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

San Gabriel Valley Route 710 Tunnel Makes National List of Highway Boondoggles

A new study by the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) Education Fund and Frontier Group identifies 12 of the most wasteful highway expansion projects across the country, slated to collectively cost at least $24 billion. Making the list of national highway boondoggles is the proposed San Gabriel Valley 710 Tunnel Project, which officials estimate would cost $5.6 billion. 

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News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Report Shows Mounting Evidence of Millennials’ Shift Away from Driving

“Millennials are different from their parents, and those differences aren’t going away,” said Emily Rusch, Executive Director at CALPIRG Education Fund. “After five years of economic growth with stagnant driving, it’s time for federal and California governments to wake up to growing evidence that Millennials don’t want to drive as much as their parents did. This change has big implications and policy makers shouldn’t be asleep at the wheel.”

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News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Study: Traffic Data Does Not Support Spending on Tesoro Extension

A new report by the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) Education Fund takes aim at the proposal by the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) in Orange County to extend the California 241 toll road, calling the “Tesoro Extension” a national example of wasteful highway spending that threatens to crowd out more important investments.

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News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Report: University Campuses Like UC Davis Are Transportation Trailblazers as Students Lead Shift From Driving

Davis, February 5th – As Millennials lead a national shift away from driving, universities like UC Davis are giving students new options for getting around and becoming innovators in transportation policy, according to a new report released today. The report, titled, “A New Course: How Innovative University Programs Are Reducing Driving on Campus and Creating New Models for Transportation Policy,” was released by CALPIRG Education Fund and features UC Davis.

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Media Hit | Transportation

SoCal residents are driving less, taking transit more, study says

Mirroring a national shift in transportation habits, Southern California residents are driving less and using transit more than they were a decade ago, according to a study by two national think tanks published Wednesday.

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Media Hit | Transportation

New Study Shows More People Leaving Cars At Home

A new report shows urban Californians are leading a trend of leaving cars at home and choosing bikes or public transit instead. It's a first-of-its-kind survey comparing urban transportation trends

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Spending the Stimulus

California will receive $ 2.57 billion for surface transportation through ARRA. The citizens of California want to use this money to stimulate the economy and to advance long-term goals. This report provides a 20-item menu for how California can use ARRA stimulus dollars to make the transportation investments that aggressively address the state’s pressing needs. It offers previously unavailable information for citizens and reporters to use in asking whether state officials are choosing the best available ways to invest California’s transportation stimulus money.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Economic Stimulus or Simply More Misguided Spending?

President-elect Obama has declared that the next recovery plan must do more than just pump money into the economy. It will also create the infrastructure that America needs for the 21st century.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

A Better Way to Go

America’s automobile-centered transportation system was a key 
component of the nation’s economic prosperity during the 20th century. But our transportation system is increasingly out of step with the challenges of the 21st century. Rising fuel prices, growing traffic congestion, and the need to address critical challenges such as global warming and America’s addiction to imported oil all point toward the need for a new transportation future.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax, Transportation

Road Privatization

Privatization of toll roads is a growing trend. During 2007, sixteen states had some privatized road project formally proposed or underway. In the last two years Indiana and Chicago signed multi-billiondollar private concession deals for public roads for 75 years and 99 years respectively. As a result of these deals, toll rates on these roads will increase steadily and revenues will be paid to private company shareholders rather than to the public budget.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Slick Politics

In 1996 and again in 2000, CALPIRG Education Fund completed studies of the levels of money the oil industry spends on lobbying expenses and campaign contributions in California state politics. With consumer and environmental activists continuing to be frustrated in their attempts to enact meaningful petroleum diversity policies for California despite record high gas prices and stubborn pollution problems, we decided to examine once more the effects that money spent by the oil industry has on public policy.

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Blog Post | Transportation

House Transportation Bill is a Step Backwards, Lacks a Serious Funding Mechanism | Emily Rusch

Statement of U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget Associate Dan Smith on the U.S. House transportation reauthorization bill.

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