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Volkswagen Emissions Scandal Results In $68.7M Settlement For Colorado

By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4)- The state of Colorado expects to receive $68.7 million in settlement funds following resolution of the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

Investigators determined the German automaker rigged computer software to emit pollutants at a lower level while being tested.

Conor Merrigan is now driving an electric vehicle. He sold back his Volkswagen diesel that was billed as clean, but really was not.

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(credit: CBS)

"I felt betrayed. I thought a lot about it, obviously, having one of the vehicles," said Merrigan.

Now VW is paying claims filed by states, including Colorado.

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Conor Merrigan (credit: CBS)

The proposal is for the money to go for electric vehicle charging stations to be installed across the state. Replacing diesel transit buses and other efforts to improve Colorado's air quality.

Danny Katz, the director for the Colorado Public Interest Research Group or CoPIRG, welcomed the state's proposal.

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(credit: CBS)

"Unfortunately not we're never going to be ever to take back the pollution that those deceptive VW cars put into the air," he said.

Two years ago CBS4 investigator Rick Sallinger conducted a Volkswagen diesel test. With the help of Colorado State University engine experts, they drove and measured the polluting nitrogen oxide coming from the car. It was 40 times allowable limits.

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

But the CBS4 Investigation found the state emissions test couldn't detect it. The state health department at the time said the test was not designed to do that. The health department would like the dirty diesels to go away.

Chris Colclasure is the deputy director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Air Pollution Control Division.

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CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger interviews Chris Colclasure is the deputy director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Air Pollution Control Division (credit: CBS)

He said they are looking for input from the public on how the money from Volkswagen should be spent while noting, "The future of air quality is dependent on getting cleaner and zero emission vehicles on the road."

The emissions cheaters were caught and now Colorado is getting paid.

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The VW emissions test (credit: CBS)

The following information is from CDPHE Air Pollution Control Division:

Volkswagen Group of America and certain related entities admitted they violated the federal Clean Air Act by selling vehicles with 2.0-liter and 3.0-liter diesel engines that emitted more air pollution than the federal Clean Air Act allows and by cheating on federal emission tests to hide the excess pollution.

To mitigate the environmental damages from violating the federal Clean Air Act, the settlement requires Volkswagen to place $2.9 billion in an independently administered environmental trust. The trust will fund projects across the country to mitigate the diesel emissions caused by the offending Volkswagen vehicles. Depending on when the trust is filed with the court, Colorado anticipates it will begin to receive funds in 2018.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will be designated as the state's lead agency to implement the trust. CDPHE partnered with the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Colorado Energy Office, and the Regional Air Quality Council to develop a spending plan. When the state receives funds from the trust, these agencies will work together to distribute the funds to public and private fleets to incentivize emission reduction projects.

CDPHE and its partner agencies conducted public outreach in fall 2016 regarding how the trust funds should be used. The agencies gave approximately 15 presentations about the trust, conducted media interviews, directly contacted more than 450 stakeholders and received approximately 120 comments regarding how to spend the funds. Based on initial public comments and legal requirements, CDPHE and its partner agencies drafted a spending plan, formally known as a Beneficiary Mitigation Plan, describing how Colorado proposes to distribute the funds. CDPHE is now publishing the Beneficiary Mitigation Plan for additional public comments.

The terms of the trust require the funds to be spent on certain eligible categories of projects. To maximize air quality benefits, Colorado proposes to distribute the funds as follows:
• $18 million to replace medium- and heavy-duty diesel trucks, school buses and shuttle buses with alternate fuel or electric vehicles. Small businesses with fleets of fewer than nine vehicles could receive incentives to replace old diesel vehicles with new diesels.
• $18 million to replace diesel transit buses with alternate fuel or electric buses.
• $10.3 million to install charging stations or fueling stations for zero-emission passenger cars and trucks.
• $5.2 million to reduce emissions from non-road diesel engines or diesel equipment.
• $12.2 million held by Colorado in a flexible fund that would be allocated to eligible projects based on demand.

Access additional details in the proposed Beneficiary Mitigation Plan.

The department will hold a meeting for public comment regarding the proposed plan Sept. 18, 2-5 p.m. at the CDOT headquarters building, 4201 E. Arkansas Ave., Denver. Comments will be accepted during the public meeting and in writing until Oct. 13. Written comments may be submitted to or by mail or hand delivery to:

CDPHE Air Pollution Control Division
ATTN: Christine Hoefler
4300 Cherry Creek Drive South
Denver, CO 80246

Oral comments will be recorded during the public meeting. All oral and written comments will be posted on the department's website along with a summary of the comments received. CDPHE and its partner agencies will consider all timely comments and make any appropriate revisions to finalize the Beneficiary Mitigation Plan. The final Beneficiary Mitigation Plan will be posted on CDPHE's website and submitted to the trustee.

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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