BOSTON – The Baker-Polito Administration today released the Commonwealth’s final plan to use the first portion of the $75 million secured for Massachusetts through the efforts of the Attorney General’s Office and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) as part of the national Volkswagen (VW) emissions case settlement to reduce vehicle emissions. As part of that plan, the administration announced the availability of $23.5 million in grants for the first phase of the 15-year timeline to spend the VW funds. MassDEP held public meetings across Massachusetts from January to March, 2018, and released a draft plan for public comment this past July.
“Combating the challenge of climate change is a priority for our administration, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector is a vital part of that challenge,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The Commonwealth’s mitigation plan will be a tool for making smart investments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, drive innovative technologies and expand the clean transportation system.”
“The VW mitigation plan reflects the Commonwealth’s continuing commitment to creating a healthy environment for our citizens,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “As our administration continues its efforts to promote an electrified transportation network, we look forward to bringing cleaner air and a safer environment to all communities across the state.”
“We held Volkswagen accountable for duping Massachusetts residents into driving dirty cars that illegally polluted our air, and then lying to regulators about its deceit,” said Attorney General Maura Healey. “This plan will help us invest in future generations by putting clean zero-emission buses on our roads and making electric vehicles more accessible to our residents.”
Under the final Beneficiary Mitigation Plan issued today, the Commonwealth is committed to funding projects that:
“The VW Mitigation Plan and its first-year goals are an important blueprint for further electrifying the transportation sector in Massachusetts, and build on our work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “Significantly, the plan was drafted to ensure that all Massachusetts residents are breathing clean and healthy air by promoting geographic equity and favoring projects proposed in environmental justice communities.”
Using the $23.5 million allocated in the Beneficiary Mitigation Plan’s first phase of funding, the Commonwealth will dedicate:
“The VW trust fund provides a unique opportunity to greatly cut emissions across multiple transportation sectors,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “The projects can address pollutants from bus fleets, trucks, locomotives, cargo-handling equipment, and ferries and tugboats, and fund the installation of hundreds of electric vehicle charging stations across the Commonwealth.”
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice, acting on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the State of California and a multi-state coalition of states – led by Massachusetts and other states – sued VW for unlawfully installing defeat devices – software that allowed certain model-year VWs, Audis and Porsches to cheat emission testing and emit more nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution than was legally allowed by federal and state regulations. As a result of the settlements of the federal case, every state in the country was eligible to receive a share of a $2.925 billion environmental mitigation trust, based on the number of vehicles registered in the state and equipped with the software. More than 14,000 vehicles registered in Massachusetts contained defeat devices.
In addition to the federal settlement, Massachusetts – through the efforts of the Attorney General’s Office and MassDEP – reached settlements in the states litigation with VW that included significant consumer relief and the largest ever state environmental penalty of more than $20 million.
“Preserving environmental quality and fighting the effects of climate change require our Commonwealth to use every tool we have available,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “I commend the work of everyone involved in this process for producing a plan that focuses on the adoption of innovative clean technology and addresses issues of environmental justice.”
“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting electric vehicles are critical issues facing the Commonwealth,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “As we transition to cleaner forms of energy and adopt technologies that cut emissions, we drive closer toward a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable Massachusetts.”
“Reducing the carbon impact of the transportation sector is critical, and making progress has been challenging,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “The investments that will be made from this fund are an incredibly effective and important strategy to capture and make productive the unique opportunity presented by the influx of VW funds into our state government.”
“The Beneficiary Mitigation Plan released today will help Massachusetts further its environmental goals and reverse some of the damage caused by Volkswagen’s attempts to circumvent state and federal auto emissions standards,” said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading). “The initiatives funded through this settlement will promote eco-friendly transportation upgrades that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create a cleaner, healthier environment for all residents.”
MassDEP, the lead agency for administering the VW funding, developed the draft Beneficiary Mitigation Plan after receiving hundreds of comments from key environmental, industry, and nonprofit groups in a series of public meetings held across the Commonwealth from January to March. The draft plan was released in July for public comments on how to invest the mitigation funds to improve air quality by reducing NOx emissions, the pollutant associated with VW’s use of “defeat devices.”
MassDEP also plans to release the VW Open Solicitation application in mid-December. Applications will be due two months from the release date. Interested applicants can find further information on the Open Solicitation here.