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Coloradans Sound Off On How VW Settlement $$ Should Be Spent

By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4) - An auditorium room was packed Monday as people told the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment how they feel millions of dollars from Volkswagen should be spent.

It stems from one of the biggest corporate scandals ever and led to greater pollution of Colorado's air.

From 2009 to 2015, Volkswagen manufactured cars billed as "the new clean diesels." It turns out it was a lie, and now a huge lot at Pikes Peak Raceway is purgatory for thousands of cars that the automaker had to buy buy back as part of a court settlement.

(credit: CBS)

The cars are visible from Interstate 25 south of Colorado Springs.

Each owner who bought the VWs or Audis is also being given $5,000 to 10,000 in restitution.

(credit: CBS)

Phil Nelson of Golden was one of those who filled the room for the hearing. CBS4 investigator Rick Sallinger has been reporting on the VW cheating scandal and asked Nelson about his electric Nissan Leaf.

"You feel this is better than those Volkswagen diesels?" Sallinger asked.

Nelson responded, "Well, yes, actually my son bought a Volkswagen diesel and he was quite, I think the word is, chagrined."

Many at the hearing urged the state to put a good portion of the $68 million from Volkswagen towards aiding electric vehicles.

"I like this one and have been in other electrics that are equally quiet," Nelson said.

The VW money is being proposed for electric car charging stations, cleaner transit buses and alternative fuel vehicles. But one man at the hearing felt the process is not open enough to those most affected by the bad air.

Eddie Soto said he was there representing Servicios de la Raza, a Hispanic organization,

"People who are in positions of power have heard about the settlement, but people that are most affected by this money going to them don't even know about it," he said.

In the past, CBS4 -- with help from engineers at Colorado State University -- showed how Volkswagen not only cheated its owners about emissions, but beat state-sponsored tests because those tests were not designed to measure what VW was hiding through rigged computer software.

Volkswagen emissions testing
Scientists from CSU perform an emissions test on a VW Jetta (credit: CBS)

Now the company is to pay back the Colorado with cleaner air.

Comments on how the money should be spent can be sent to until Oct. 13.

CBS4's Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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