BOSTON – The Baker-Polito Administration today issued a draft plan to utilize millions of dollars resulting from the national Volkswagen (VW) emissions case settlement to reduce vehicle emissions and greenhouse gases (GHG). The release of the plan follows public meetings held across the Commonwealth in which input was sought on mitigation actions to improve air quality by reducing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions using settlement funds. A national settlement in 2017 awarded the Commonwealth $75 million to spend over the next several years. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) is now seeking public comment on the proposed Beneficiary Mitigation Plan.
“These resources will help the Commonwealth continue our progress tackling greenhouse gas emissions within the transportation sector by investing in important projects like electric buses for regional transit authorities and workplace charging stations for electric vehicles,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The plan released today is the product of several public meetings and strikes a balance between advancing alternative vehicle technologies and improving the environment in our communities today and into the future.”
The VW court settlement resulted from litigation brought against VW by federal and state governments for the company’s unlawful use of “defeat devices,” producing fraudulent emission results for certain vehicles and excess pollution from those vehicles, in violation of federal and state laws. Massachusetts, through the efforts of the Attorney General’s Office and MassDEP, led multi-state litigation against VW, resulting in settlements with the state that included significant consumer relief and the largest ever state environmental penalty of more than $20 million.
The national settlement provides Massachusetts with more than $75 million to spend on emission reduction projects. The draft MassDEP mitigation plan issued today will fund projects that:
“Our administration is committed to protecting the Commonwealth’s environmental resources, and this draft plan will help make a difference in the quality of life within our communities,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “The Volkswagen mitigation plan is vitally important to our air quality strategies, and continued collaboration with stakeholders around the state will ensure that funding is utilized in the most impactful manner possible.”
“We held Volkswagen accountable for illegally cheating consumers and polluting the air with their dirty diesel vehicles – some of the most egregious misconduct in corporate history,” said Attorney General Maura Healey. “These funds will help us build the clean transportation system we need in Massachusetts and bring new zero-emission electric buses to communities. We look forward to continuing to work with MassDEP and stakeholders on this vital effort.”
Under the draft mitigation plan, Massachusetts proposes to fund $23.5 million in projects in the first year. The projects include:
“The Baker-Polito Administration is committed to identifying solutions to achieving substantial greenhouse gas emission reductions from the transportation sector,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “The projects implemented through this mitigation plan will result in emission reductions across the Commonwealth, particularly to impacted Environmental Justice communities.”
VW admitted publicly in 2015 that it had deliberately installed software “defeat devices” designed to cheat state emissions tests, including those in Massachusetts. Nearly 590,000 model year 2009 to 2016 Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche vehicles with 2.0- and 3.0-liter diesel engines that the company sold or leased to American consumers were affected. Residents of Massachusetts own or lease about 15,000 of the affected vehicles which, due to VW’s actions, have emitted smog-causing oxides of nitrogen (NOx) at levels of up to 40 times higher than allowed.
The national settlement with VW in 2017 resulted in the creation of a $2.925 billion Environmental Mitigation Trust funded by VW to address the air quality impacts of the excess NOx emissions. The trust includes an allocation of more than $75 million to Massachusetts. The Commonwealth has up to 10 years to spend 80 percent of its allocation and an additional five years to spend the remaining 20 percent.
MassDEP held 10 stakeholder meetings across the state from January to March and opened a four-week comment period to solicit input on how best to invest these funds in better air quality, cleaner transportation and healthier communities.
“The VW trust funds will enable us to implement strategies that will greatly cut emissions of pollutants,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “During our public meetings, we received significant comment that helped MassDEP establish the goals laid out in the draft plan, and I urge continued public participation as we move this plan forward.”
Public comments on the Beneficiary Mitigation Plan will be accepted by MassDEP until 5 p.m. on Monday, August 20. Electronic comments can be submitted to [email protected] and the subject line should state: “Comments on VW Draft BMP.” Hard copy comments can be sent to: Susan Lyon, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, 1 Winter St., 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02108.
An announcement on the final BMP and a solicitation for projects to be funded under the BMP will be announced in the fall once the plan has been approved by the court-appointed trustee.
MassDEP is responsible for ensuring clean air and water, safe management and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.