FL getting $166 million from VW “dieselgate” settlement; state wants public input on how to spend it

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Florida is getting $166 million from Volkswagen as part of a $3 billion national settlement reached when the carmaker was caught improperly rigging emissions equipment to make it look like VW cars (including Audis and Porsches) were emitting less pollution than they actually produced.

Now, the state Department of Environmental Protection has released a draft plan on how the state intends to spend the $166 million, and is asking for public input through August 16.

Many VW cars had a “defeat device” in diesel engines that could detect when they were being tested, and VW admitted cheating U.S. emissions tests. The engines emitted nitrogen oxide pollutants up to 40 times above what is allowed in the U.S., posing a health threat, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says.

VW sold about  590,000 faulty diesel cars in the U.S. between 2009 to 2016, the EPA says.

Florida’s settlement money, the DEP said in a written statement, “will go toward projects to mitigate the excess emissions caused by certain Volkswagen vehicles operating without the legally required emissions controls.”

The Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club says the state’s plan misses a “major opportunity to clean up transportation.”

“The state has signaled it favors investing in diesel vehicles in its plan, leaving the door wide open for further pollution in our communities,” the group said in a press release.

“Dedicating 15 percent of the Volkswagen Settlement money for electric vehicle charging infrastructure — as this plan does — is good but it’s not enough,” Sierra Club’s Florida Chapter Director Frank Jackalone said in a written statement. “It’s just the tip of the iceberg of the investments needed to tackle transportation emissions in a state that could be underwater in just a few decades.”

Florida is the last state to release a draft plan for its settlement money, Sierra Club says: “Colorado has already awarded over $14 million for 24 new electric buses, while Virginia has invested over $12 million for new electric buses.”

The state Department of Environmental Protection said the plan intends to “reduce mobile sources of emissions in areas where people live, work and visit.”

“To achieve this goal,” the DEP says, the state plans to  “identify the areas in Florida where the largest number of people are impacted by higher levels of emissions from diesel-powered vehicles and equipment; and identify mitigation projects that achieve the lowest cost per ton of pollutants reduced.”

The state is accepting public comment on the draft plan at [email protected] through August 16.

Julie Hauserman
Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book is Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles.

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