Austin Gets Its VW Payout
It took some doing, but Austin will see $16 million from Volkswagen AG's emissions control scandal fallout
When Volkswagen AG got caught installing "defeat devices" in its diesel engines that disabled their emissions controls except when the vehicles were being tested, the resulting scandal cost the German automaker about $15 billion, some of which was earmarked to states for mitigation projects to reduce diesel emissions from all sources. Texas was allocated $209 million of that, which was based on the number of affected vehicles registered in each state.
Many thought that Texas would turn around and parcel the air-quality funds out to different regions in the same manner, but this was not required by the terms of the settlement. The state's first plan for using the VW money instead allocated the funds to air quality regions with the greatest need – which didn't include Austin, even though our metro area has more of the affected cars (per capita) than anywhere else in Texas. So local leaders on the air quality front expressed their displeasure and enlisted the help of state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, who used his powers of persuasion for good. The new plan funds seven "priority areas" based on the number of registered bad VWs – including Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston-Galveston, San Antonio, Temple-Killeen, El Paso, and Beaumont-Port Arthur. Each can receive additional funds based on their attaining federal air-quality standards; Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio get still more funds because they've already gone into non-attainment of those standards. The remainder goes to electric and fuel-cell vehicle charging infrastructure around the state; all told, Austin's share of the VW money went from zero to more than $16 million.