In 2015, EPA issued two notices of violation of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to Volkswagen Group (VW), the German automotive manufacturer. EPA asserted that VW installed software that activated emissions controls only while undergoing emissions testing but rendered certain emissions controls inoperative during normal driving conditions. Consequently, approximately 500,000 2.0-liter diesel vehicles (models 2009 to 2015) and 90,000 3.0-liter diesel vehicles (models 2009-2016) sold across the U.S. emitted between 9 and 40 times the nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions allowed by federal law.
Utah received approximately $35 million from a nationwide settlement with VW for violations of the Clean Air Act. Utah’s portion will help offset excess NOx emissions from the approximately 7,000 VW, Audi, and Porsche vehicles in the state affected by the automaker’s violations.
DEQ determined that these excess NOx emissions contributed an estimated 351-1,556 tons of NOx over the span of time they were operating in Utah. Approximately 70 percent of the affected vehicles are registered in the seven counties designated as nonattainment for particulate matter (PM2.5) under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
Governor Herbert designated DEQ as the lead agency to administer these monies. DEQ’s responsibilities as lead agency included the development of an Environmental Mitigation Plan (EMP). DAQ invited the public to provide input on the EMP and worked with an advisory committee on recommendations.
The VW settlement included a prescribed list of categories for NOx mitigation projects. DEQ crafted an Environmental Mitigation Plan (EMP) using these guidelines, input from the public, and recommendations from an advisory committee. Final selection of Eligible Mitigation Action (EMA) categories was based on the advisory committee’s recommendations, public input, and DEQ goals:
- Achieve significant NOx reductions that work toward fully mitigating the excess lifetime NOx emissions from the non-compliant VW vehicles and contribute to the State’s ongoing goal of reaching attainment of the NAAQS.
- Maximize the amount of emissions reductions for each dollar spent.
- Benefit areas in Utah that bear a disproportionate amount of the air pollution burden.
- Stimulate emerging vehicle technologies that result in long-term emissions benefits.
- Provide economic and health benefits to the citizens of Utah.
The plan focuses the $35 million settlement funds on upgrades to government-owned diesel truck and bus fleets as well as the expansion of electric-vehicle (EV) charging equipment. Funding allocations are as follows:
- Class 4-8 Local Freight Trucks and School, Shuttle, and Transit Buses: 73.5 percent
- Light-Duty, Zero-Emissions-Vehicle Supply Equipment: 11 percent
- Administrative Costs: 8.5 percent
- Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) options: 7 percent
Applications for funding were available from October 1, 2018, to November 30, 2018. Only government entities and federal government agencies were eligible to apply.
 The Volkswagen Group collectively includes Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., Porsche AG, and Porsche Cars North America, Inc. Notice of Violation from Phillip A. Brooks, EPA Air Enforcement Division to David Geanacopoulos and Stuart Johnson, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (September 18, 2015); Notice of Violation from Susan Shinkman, EPA Office of Civil Enforcement to David Geanacopoulos and Stuart Johnson, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. and Joseph Folz and Walter J. Lewis, Porsche Cars North America, Inc. (November 2, 2015).