Illinois EPA Hosts Public Meetings on Volkswagen Plan

In addition to reducing emissions, settlement funds from Volkswagen's cheating scandal can be used to transform Illinois' transportation market by facilitating the transition from dirty gasoline to zero-emission electricity.

After releasing the Illinois Beneficiary Mitigation Plan for a settlement resulting from the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) was criticized for rushing the process to create the state’s plan without giving the public any substantial opportunity to voice their opinions. In response to this criticism, the IEPA announced that it would hold three public meetings before the end of May. Two were held last week in Springfield and East St. Louis. The final is being held in Chicago on May 30th from 6 to 8 PM at the James Thompson Center, Auditorium, 100 W. Randolph Street.

These meetings offer a unique opportunity for the public to voice their opinions on an $108 million investment for the reduction of harmful NOx emissions within the state. In addition to reducing emissions, Volkswagen dollars can be utilized by the state to transform the transportation market by facilitating the fuel transition from dirty gasoline to zero emission electricity.

A September 2017 report commissioned by NRDC details the benefits of widespread transportation electrification in the state of Illinois. Assuming a high penetration of electric vehicle by 2050, Illinois could see a cumulative benefit of $43 billion from the following:

  • $1.8 billion in the form of reduced electric bills for all utility customers
  • $35.2 billion in the form of reduced annual vehicle operating costs
  • $5.6 billion as the monetized value of greenhouse gas emissions reductions

Although these benefits are sure to accrue from widespread EV adoption, such a scenario is only possible with forward-looking policy and investment towards clean transportation. The Illinois Beneficiary Mitigation Plan is an opportunity to set Illinois on the path to realize the economic benefits outlined in the report. Without complementary efforts to develop the state’s emerging EV market, Illinois runs the risk of diminishing the potential benefits that EVs can offer the state.

In NRDC’s VW comments to the IEPA, we noted the importance of investing funds in electric vehicles through light-duty charging infrastructure, buses, and trucks. Specifically, we advocate for the following:

  • Full 15 percent investment ($16.2 million) in light-duty zero emission supply equipment
  • Specific allocations for overburdened environmental justice communities
  • Establishment of a formal, more iterative stakeholder process
  • Investment in electric school buses, transit buses, and medium- and heavy-duty trucks

A clean transportation future means cleaner air and cheaper fuel. With VW funds available as early as late 2018, it is important that the IEPA make progressive decisions that consider equitable electric opportunity. We look forward to working with the IEPA and other stakeholders to ensure a cleaner, more modern transportation future for Illinois.

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