Volkswagen's Settlement Cash Isn't Spreading Sunshine and Rainbows in Texas

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
volkswagens settlement cash isnt spreading sunshine and rainbows in texas

Sprinkle a bag of cash on an area and what happens? The highest authority in said area collects it all and then decides how to dole it out. And, just like at a children’s birthday party, the squabbling soon begins — usually sparked by one guest complaining that another got a larger slice of cake.

That’s what’s currently happening in Texas, where a city with dirtier air claims it’s being short-changed after seeing the windfall headed to a smaller, cleaner city. No fair!

Officials in the state’s largest city, Houston, aren’t happy about second-ranked San Antonio’s cut of the dirty diesel loot.

In its settlement, Volkswagen agreed to funnel a total of $2.9 billion to U.S. states, letting those jurisdictions decide where and how the money should be spent to offset the pollution spread by its emissions-rigged vehicles over the course of seven years. Highly populated Texas received a large cut, of which 81 percent (some $169.5 million) will be distributed to five population centers.

A problem arose when Houston learned that San Antonio, roughly two-thirds its size, stood to receive 35.1 percent of the state total, or $73.5 million. Under the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s plan, Houston receives only $13.1 percent of the cake, or roughly $27.4 million. Why the discrepancy? Apparently, San Antonio’s closer to meeting federal air quality standards than its larger neighbor.

Houston claims that, besides having worse air quality than San Antonio, one quarter of affected VW models in Texas resided within its boundaries. Thus, the state should fork it over.

As reported by Houston Public Media, the city wants the state to provide at least $50 million. Not only that, it wants an exemption from a requirement stating it must match 40 percent of the amount, claiming it’s still feeling budget pressure from last year’s devastating hurricane. “So we deserve at least a quarter of those funds, because we’re the ones that were harmed,” said Kris Banks, a government relations assistant to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

The state claims there’s still $31 million from the settlement that’s up in the air. However, that particular bundle of cash must be spent on electric vehicle charging stations.

In the wake of the settlement, many U.S. states and cities decided to put the money towards the upgrade of diesel-heavy transit and truck fleets. It’s an easy way to quickly lower emissions and reduce air pollution, while also creating some breathing room in tight budgets. Still, even if cities feel they got their fair share, other problems piggy-backed on those VW dollars.

In June, the city of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, learned that the portion of the state’s $67.1 million cut set aside for the purchase of new buses might not help it get its hands on new rolling stock. If Eau Claire took the VW money allocated for new buses, the state would cut the city’s transit aid by 20 percent of the value of the new buses. Like other municipalities, the city depends on that aid to pay transit salaries and fuel costs. As such, Eau Claire remains on the fence when it comes to the purchase. Its aging buses still ply the roads.

Naturally, the $109 million cut set aside for Illinois created a scandal. In May, Governor Bruce Rauner was forced to announce public hearings on how best to spend the money after critics accused the state’s environmental chief of cutting deals with big business.

Who knew winning the lottery could create problems?

[Image: Volkswagen]

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2 of 8 comments
  • Stingray65 Stingray65 on Sep 19, 2018

    Each state should use the VW money to buy lottery tickets - you have to buy a ticket to win, and 1% goes to fund education.

  • Fred Fred on Sep 19, 2018

    Just put it in the general and rainy day fund and dull it out like normal. Dang stupid politicians.

  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
  • ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"
  • ToolGuy When Farley says “like the Millennium Falcon” he means "fully updatable" and "constantly improving" -- it's right there in the Car and Driver article (and makes perfect sense).