NC Seeks Ideas for Spending VW Settlement Money

The state expects to get about $92 million from a $2.9 billion settlement that was reached following an investigation launched in 2015 into Volkswagen for making and installing illegal software devices to help some vehicles defeat emission tests.

Residents of North Carolina who have ideas for how to use $92 million from a court settlement to improve North Carolina's air quality are being asked to share them as the state develops its plan. Gov. Roy Cooper last week named the Department of Environmental Quality as the lead agency to develop its Volkswagen mitigation plan for using the state's share.

Approximately 18,700 of the affected vehicles are registered in North Carolina, making the state eligible to receive more than $92 million from the national settlement with Volkswagen AG and its Audi and Porsche affiliates. "Clean air is important to our health and our economy, and this settlement gives us the opportunity to use funds paid by wrongdoers to make the air we breathe cleaner," Cooper said. "We want to hear from the public how we can best invest these funds to improve North Carolina."

As DEQ drafts the plan, the department is meeting with interested parties to gather information and determine the best use of the money. Under the court-approved settlement, the funds must be approved by the court trustee and be used to reduce certain harmful air emissions. North Carolina plans to submit its plan to the court-appointed settlement trustee by next summer, then wait for approval by the trustee.

The Division of Air Quality requests public input regarding what the state should include for potential funding in its mitigation plan. Individuals, tribes, governments, and groups are welcome to submit comments until Dec. 31, 2017. The settlement includes strict categories for states to use when selecting eligible projects, which are outlined in the request for information.

The settlement was reached following an investigation launched in 2015 by then-Attorney General Cooper and other state attorneys general into Volkswagen for making and installing illegal software devices to help some vehicles defeat emission tests. EPA discovered some diesel automobiles manufactured by Volkswagen AG and its Audi and Porsche affiliates circumvented federal air emission standards and violated the Clean Air Act by allowing some vehicles to emit 40 times the allowable levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx).

To resolve the case, Volkswagen will pay $2.9 billion into an environmental mitigation trust fund to be shared among states and tribes. The money must go to reduce NOx emissions to offset the excess emissions caused by Volkswagen's deceptive actions, and Volkswagen will provide buybacks and repairs of affected vehicles for qualified owners.

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