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Volkswagen Settlement In Washington State



 What’s all the buzz about that “VW money”?


Volkswagen intentionally developed and installed computer programs (“defeat devices”) into their diesel cars, which allowed the vehicles to cheat federal emissions testing. As a result, roughly 500,000 cars polluted up to 35 times more nitrogen oxides (NOx) than allowed by law between 2009 and 2016.

In October 2016, the federal court finalized a lawsuit settlement agreement between government agencies and Volkswagen for some of their violations of emission standards. VW agreed to pay $14.7 billion in settlement activities to lessen the harm caused by these vehicles.

The settlement outlines four actions:

​​1​.​​ ​Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund​​​​​​​​ State governments will administer these​
2.​​ Zero Emission​ Vehicle (ZEV) Investment Commitment
​​​​​​VW will administer these ​​ ​​ ​​ ​
​3.​ Buyback or Lease Termination
​4. Emissions Modification

Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund

VW must provide $2.7 billion to states and territories to fund environmental mitigation projects that reduce NOx pollution in areas where the “cheating” cars operate. Funds are distributed based on the proportion of cheating vehicles sold in each state. Washington State’s allotment is roughly $103.4 million – the sixth highest in the nation.

A second settlement regarding 3.0 liter diesel vehicles, announced in December 2016, will add another $225 million to the NOx mitigation fund. Washington State’s allocation from this settlement is expected to be approximately $8.7 million.

The mitigation funds can be used on a range of projects that reduce emissions, including:

  • Local freight trucks and port drayage trucks
  • School buses, shuttle buses, transit buses
  • Freight switcher locomotives
  • Ferries/tugs
  • Ocean-going vessels (by providing shore power at the dock)
  • Airport ground support equipment
  • Forklifts and port cargo-handling equipment
  • Light-duty vehicles (by providing electric vehicle charging equipment)

The VW mitigation fund represents a significant opportunity to reduce pollution in Washington while striving to mitigate the harms caused by Volkswagen’s actions.

$2 Billion Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Investment Commitment

Volkswagen will invest $800 million in California, and $1.2 billion in the rest of the country for projects that bolster the use, availability and awareness of zero-emission vehicle technology.

The main categories for investment include:

  • Electric vehicle charging infrastructure
  • Increasing awareness and fostering education
  • Launching a Green City Initiative

Volkswagen is currently seeking proposals for its national zero-emission vehicle investment program. To learn more or submit a proposal, visit their website.

Buyback or Lease Termination
Under the settlement, Volkswagen must compensate diesel vehicle owners by either buying back the car or paying for an early lease termination. If you own or lease a Volkswagen diesel vehicle, go to the company’s website to check your eligibility in this program.
Emissions Modification
Volkswagen vehicle owners also have the option to ask the company to modify their car​ (instead of a buyback payment). This allows owners to keep their car once the vehicle’s emissions system is corrected.

Additional Resources


 Who is impacted by NOx pollution


What areas in our region are affected by NOx pollution?

This map shows the areas most impacted over time by nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the Puget Sound region. These are the areas that would benefit the most from diesel reduction projects.

NOx pollution comes from cars, trucks, trains, airports (indicated by the airplane icons on the map), and large industries (red circles on the map).

The map represents our best estimate of populations where three factors overlap: 1) disproportionate exposure to NOx pollution, 2) poorer health outcomes, and 3) economic or cultural barriers to taking part in air quality policy decisions. Not surprisingly, the map highlights the fact that areas close to major roadways or many large industrial facilities experience higher impacts from NOx pollution.

How this map was made

To estimate the pollution levels in each census block group, we used information from our emission inventories, results from United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) models, and state traffic count data. We then applied a weighting factor that includes both demographic and health-based data.

Demographic data included: income, percent minority race, English language proficiency, percent of residents with a high school diploma, percent of households with a single female as the head of household, and age. Health data included health outcomes related to exposure to air pollutants (asthma hospitalization rates, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) hospitalization rates; and cardiac-related hospitalization rates).