Berkshire Planner Wants Fair Share Of VW Payback
When an automaker's environmental malfeasance came to light three years ago, a clock started ticking on making things right.
The Berkshire Eagle reports now the alarm is sounding.
A deadline passed Sept. 1 for those who owned or leased diesel vehicles manufactured by Volkswagen Group of America to take part in a settlement valued at over $10 billion.
But all residents of Massachusetts stand to gain since VW is compensating states for the environmental harm it created by producing diesel-powered cars secretly designed to under-report emissions.
One Berkshire County leader is questioning whether the region's transit system will get its fair share. Another is urging the state to stay away from buses fueled by natural gas.
By installing "defeat devices" that cheated on emissions tests, VW released smog-causing nitrogen oxide up to 40 times the amounts allowed by law, according to terms of the agreement the company reached with the U.S. Department of Justice and with the attorneys general of several states, including Massachusetts.
The state's share of a $2.7 billion national trust fund is $75 million. In hearings this year, the state Department of Environmental Protection took comments on how it should allocate the windfall.
No hearing was held in Berkshire County. And in the first year's allocations, no money is yet identified to flow to environmental projects in the county, though decisions this fall could result in some, according to the DEP.
Nonetheless, the chief of the county's regional planning commission is calling on the DEP to halt its rollout of projects covered by the VW settlement.
Thomas Matuszko, executive director of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, is asking the DEP to reconsider its decision to direct money to transit authorities in the Pioneer Valley and on Martha's Vineyard, to the exclusion of the other 13 regional transit groups.
Matuszko also faults the DEP's plan for not detailing all of the steps it will finance through the VW trust payments. Under rules of the settlement, states can spend a third of their allocations in a first year — which comes to roughly $23.5 million for Massachusetts.