September 17, 2018 -- The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s draft plan for distributing funds from the Volkswagen air pollution scandal shortchanges the Houston area and requires an unnecessary local match that will make funds difficult to access for Harvey-stricken local governments, Mayor Sylvester Turner said today in written comments to the agency.
To read the mayor’s comments, as well as other information pertaining to the Volkswagen settlement and the City’s efforts to secure its fair share, view the Volkswagen Settlement web page.
The State of Texas will receive $209 million from the $2.9 billion in the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust, a fund Volkswagen was required to create as part of a settlement for manufacturing vehicles with devices that illegally avoided emission standards. TCEQ’s draft plan would allocate 81 percent of the funds to five regions – Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso and Beaumont-Port Arthur.
But the Houston region would receive only $27.4 million of these funds, about 13 percent, despite the fact that 24 percent of the vehicles with illegal devices were registered in the region and that Harris County had more of these vehicles than any other county in the state. The San Antonio region, however, will receive $73.6 million, more than a third of the funds, even though only 11 percent of the vehicles were in the area.
“The San Antonio region, which bore just more than 10 percent of the burden of these illegal defeat devices, would receive more than a third of the funds allocated to the entire state,” Turner wrote. “The Houston region had twelve times as many subject vehicles as El Paso, yet both regions would receive nearly the same amount of funds. The draft plan’s regional allocations are not in alignment with the location of Subject Vehicles in Texas, and thus do not meet the goals of the Trust Agreement.”
Funds can be used on mitigation projects to improve emissions, including replacing vehicles and building infrastructure to allow for vehicles with cleaner emissions. The draft plan also includes a requirement that local governments pay 40 percent of the costs of projects utilizing Trust money, despite the fact that the Trust allows for 100 percent of costs to be paid for governmental entities.
“The City of Houston, like many governmental entities along the Gulf Coast, has stretched its budget to its limit recovering from Hurricane Harvey,” Turner wrote. “Houston has still not received federal dollars appropriated for disaster relief. In short, the City of Houston is not in a position to cover nearly half the cost of eligible projects.”