Texas will receive more than $190 million for environmental mitigation under a multibillion-dollar settlement in the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal approved by a federal judge in San Francisco on Tuesday. Volkswagen buyers will have the option of buybacks or repairs.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer authorized the $15 billion agreement, which was first detailed this summer. It awards hundreds of million of dollars to dozens of states and includes a $10 billion buyback program to compensate consumers who bought Volkswagen Group vehicles, including Audis. Under the settlement, the German automaker will establish a $2.7 billion trust fund for projects designed to mitigate environmental harm caused by excess emissions from its vehicles. It also has agreed to pay Texas $50 million in civil penalties and attorneys’ fees for violating a state consumer protection law that bans deceptive advertising.
Environment Texas called on the state to invest the money in state programs aimed at getting exhaust-spewing or diesel-powered vehicles off the roads, along with rebates to entice people to buy eco-friendly electric vehicles.
“Given Texas’ continuing struggle to reduce harmful air pollution, the state needs to make a greater investment in clean air and the VW funds can help us get there,” the Austin-based group said in a statement. “However, it may be tempting for legislators to play shell games with the VW money and swap it out with dedicated clean air funds, resulting in no net gain for air quality. That would be a harmful mistake.”
See here and here for some background. Terms of the settlement, which covers about 32,000 cars sold in Texas, can be found here. If you might be one of those VW purchasers, you can look up how this affects you. You won’t get full buyback price, but you will get something.
Note that this is not the end of the line for VW litigation. Harris County filed a lawsuit against VW on its own before the state did; Dallas County did so as well. The state wanted them to drop their actions, but they did not. Because those suits were filed in state court, not federal court, they were not part of this agreement. I’ve asked the Harris County Attorney’s office for more information on where that stands. This is what they told me:
There’s no court date set at this time. Here’s some additional details:
The parties have started taking depositions of VW fact witnesses, and we expect those depositions to continue to be scheduled.
We have started reviewing documents that VW has produced in this matter.
The Federal settlement addressed the consumer claims and EPA’s claims for environmental remediation which are different than the civil penalties that Harris County is seeking.
In a recent ruling, Judge Sulak (in Travis County) declined the State of Texas requests to dismiss the claims that the Texas counties that filed after the State filed its claims against VW. The State of Texas is seeking to appeal that ruling. Because Harris County filed its claims prior to the State of Texas, the State of Texas has recognized that its argument on this issue does not apply to Harris County.
So there you have it. More on the federal settlement is here.