Illinois Idling on Spending Plan for Volkswagen Settlement Money
By Alex Ruppenthal
February 16, 2018
Illinois is slated to receive $108.7 million in non-taxpayer money from a national settlement with Volkswagen over the German automaker’s emissions scandal. But unlike other states in the Midwest and across the country, Illinois continues to sit idling without a plan for how it will spend the money, which is intended for clean air projects.
Hoping to ignite that process, state Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, filed legislation this week that would give state officials a deadline for coming up with a plan. The bill would require the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which is responsible for administering the settlement funds, to set up a task force to hear public comments and provide recommendations on the state’s use of the money by the end of the year.
States must submit mitigation plans detailing how the money will be spent before they can receive any funds from the settlement, which sets aside $2.7 billion for states and U.S. territories to use to reduce nitrous oxides, the type of pollution masked by software VW impelemented to cheat on federal emissions standards.
“Here we are now, [more than] a year later, and there is no public process,” said Al Grosboll, legislative director with the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center. “No hearings have been scheduled, no outreach has occurred, and there is nothing to look at.”
Environmental groups have been urging IEPA officials to jump-start the state’s mitigation plan for much of the past year. In May, a coalition of advocacy groups met with IEPA Director Alec Messina and offered suggestions on how the money should be spent.
During the meeting, Messina committed to holding multiple public input sessions in both Chicago and the St. Louis metro area, along with other locations throughout the state, according to an email the groups sent to Messina recapping their discussion.
As of Friday, no such sessions had been scheduled.