February 28, 2018
In response to the release today by the Illinois EPA of a draft plan for the use of $108 million allotted to the State of Illinois under the Volkswagen cheating scandal, environmental and public health groups issued the following statement:
“In May 2017, environmental and public health groups met with IEPA Director Alec Messina to urge transparency and public engagement in the preparation of the state’s VW mitigation plan. Director Messina assured us the agency would hold 12 public hearings across the state. Unfortunately, not a single meeting has been held. Instead, we have a plan that was developed behind closed doors,” said Jennifer Walling, Executive Director of the Illinois Environmental Council. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for Illinois to invest $108 million in clean transportation infrastructure, but we are very concerned about the lack of transparency and believe the agency’s plan fails to maximize opportunities to benefit public health and cleaner air. We prefer the public hearing and allocation strategies outlined in legislation that has been introduced in Springfield. As opposed to IEPA’s secretive process thus far, the proposed legislation would fully involve the public and immediately jump start the electrification of the transportation sector.”
Brian Urbaszewski, Director, Environmental Health at Respiratory Health Association, stated: “Diesel pollution triggers asthma attacks and increases cardiovascular disease; it puts seniors in the hospital and causes children to miss school days because they are home sick. With clean electric vehicles including cars, school buses and transit buses already on the roads, it’s extremely disappointing the state isn’t maximizing the opportunity to transition to such clean vehicles that would improve the health of everyone. Illinois should focus on fully committing to non-polluting electric vehicle solutions.”
“With $108 million on the table, Illinois is positioned to dramatically increase its electric vehicle infrastructure and accelerate the viability of electric vehicles in our state. But this proposal diminishes that opportunity,” said Toba Pearlman, Clean Energy Advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We strongly urge the agency to reconsider and seize this opportunity.”
Susan Mudd, Senior Policy Advocate with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said: “The one bright spot in the plan is IEPA’s commitment to electric school buses that protect children. Fewer kids across the state will be exposed to harmful diesel emissions that can trigger asthma attacks, interfere with children’s ability to learn and result in missed school days.”
IEC’s Walling added: “In addition to the lack of a public process, the IEPA plan does not do enough to create the greatest long-term benefits and protect those most vulnerable.”
Lead sponsors of legislation in Springfield that would require public input in the process and that would require the funding to advance the electrification of transportation also responded to the proposal.
“The Volkswagen settlement presents a great opportunity for Illinois to improve our transportation infrastructure, especially for transit and electric vehicles. For Illinois to make the most of this opportunity, it is essential that all stakeholders are allowed to provide meaningful input into how these funds are spent, and that there is a transparent process for public engagement,” said State Sen. Cristina Castro (D-Elgin). “It’s for these reasons, that I am proud to sponsor SB3103, which would require the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to establish a task force that includes all stakeholders in development of the state’s mitigation plan.”
State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) also called for a plan that maximizes investment in electric vehicle infrastructure.
“While we cannot undo the harm done by the added pollution Volkswagen knowingly permitted, this settlement provides Illinois with an opportunity to improve public health by reducing pollution going forward,” Sen. Steans said. “SB3055 would direct the maximum allowable amount of money under the terms of the settlement to electric vehicle charging stations. Additional investments in electric buses for public schools and electric fleets for municipalities will make our air cleaner by replacing polluting vehicles with non-emitting ones immediately, and make it easier for Illinoisans to switch to electric vehicles in the long term.”
“The crimes committed by Volkswagen caused real harm to Illinois drivers and to our air quality, and the public deserves an opportunity to guide how these settlement dollars are invested for maximum public benefit by electrifying our transportation system,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter. “Illinois EPA’s proposal to turn a deaf ear to public input and subsidize fossil fuels with these dollars is decidedly un-electrifying.”