By: Rebecca Judd
In February, the Illinois EPA released its Draft Mitigation Plan (Draft Plan) on how to spend the state’s $108 million allocation from the Volkswagen emissions cheating settlement fund. The state failed to have public meetings and hearings to decide the best way to spend the money before issuing the Draft Plan. However, in response to the public outcry over the lack of public engagement, along with advocacy from Sierra Club chapter, volunteers, and supporters, the Illinois EPA has announced it will now host three public outreach sessions before issuing the Final Plan in June:
Wednesday, May 23, 2018, 6-8PM
Illinois EPA Headquarters (North Entrance), Sangamo Conference Room
1000 East Converse
Facebook RSVP link
Thursday, May 24, 2018, 6-8PM
St. Paul Baptist Church
1500 Bond Avenue
East St. Louis, IL
Facebook RSVP link
Wednesday, May 30, 2018, 6-8PM
James R. Thompson Center Auditorium
100 West Randolph
Facebook RSVP link
We urge you to attend one of these sessions and voice your support for a stronger plan that maximizes pollution reduction and public health benefits through robust investment in Electric Vehicles, EV charging infrastructure, and public transit electrification, especially in economically disadvantaged and environmental justice communities.
As outlined in the Draft Plan, the Illinois EPA proposes to allocate the $108 million as follows:
- up to 20 percent ($21.7 million) toward on-road vehicles, such as upgrading or replacing trucks and buses
- up to 65 percent ($70.6 million) toward off-road projects, such as upgrading or replacing locomotive engines, ferries, and tugboats
- up to 10 percent ($10.8 million) toward replacing diesel school buses with electric buses
- up to 5 percent ($5.4 million) toward administrative expenditures
The settlement funds provide an opportunity to offset more than 40,000 tons of nitrogen oxide pollution from diesel exhaust engines in VW vehicles. In September 2015, the EPA uncovered illegal devices that allowed 2.0-liter diesel engines or TDI vehicles made by Volkswagen and its Audi and Porsche luxury brands to burn clean diesel in testing labs, only to hit the roads and emit up to 40 times the nitrogen oxide pollutants allowed in the United States. Numerous studies have shown that exposure to dangerous amounts of diesel pollution can cause respiratory diseases and worsen existing conditions such as asthma. Diesel exhaust from buses poses a particular public health risk, since buses primarily travel where there are lot of people, including in densely-crowded areas of cities, busy roads, and near schools. In Illinois, nearly one of every eight children live with asthma, but in communities of color, this number is even higher.
Therefore, it is critical that Illinois’ plan to spend the $108 million Volkswagen settlement funds is made stronger and more robustly allocated toward all-electric projects that will reduce air pollution and move Illinois towards a carbon-free transportation sector. The VW mitigation agreement allows states to aside up to 15% of funds for light-duty Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure. Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, and Minnesota have proposed dedicating the full 15% for EV infrastructure, but Illinois EPA has dedicated no funds for this vital purpose. The state’s draft spending plan also focuses heavily on switching out older, dirty diesel engines for newer diesel engines, which will reduce exhaust emissions but still continue our reliance on dirty polluting fossil fuels like diesel. The singular highlight of the draft plan is the 10 percent allocation for all-electric school buses, which is a significant step to protecting our children across Illinois. We strongly favor this part of the plan, but urge that these buses are kept electric and not propane or diesel.
Sierra Club Illinois hopes for strong turnout at these public outreach sessions, so that we can loudly send the message to IEPA that Illinois needs a stronger plan that allocates more funds toward clean, electric transportation projects and not get left behind from all the economic, environmental, and public health benefits that come from investing in a clean transportation future. The maximum 15% of the VW funds should be dedicated to light-duty EV charging infrastructure, along with additional investment into more electric vehicles and buses. By committing more of these funds toward all-electric projects and public transit electrification, the state can jumpstart the EV market, reduce electricity bills due to downward pressure on rates, and improve air quality for all Illinoisians.