This article is over 5 years old


Local Officials Say Plan for VW Settlement Money “Shortchanges” Houston Area

Houston wants a bigger cut of millions that will be distributed across the state to help cities clean up air quality.

U.S. 59 near Minute Maid Park
Gail Delaughter
Traffic on U.S. 59 in Houston. Houston’s air quality has violated federal standards for years.

Texas cities will soon get millions of dollars to help clean up air quality, but Houston officials say the plan for distributing all that money isn’t fair.

The money is coming from a settlement in the Volkswagen (VW) emissions cheating scandal. Local governments will be able to use the money to reduce emissions from their vehicles and other equipment.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) plans to give the biggest chunk of the money – more than $73 million – to the San Antonio area, mainly because that city is closer than others to getting in line with federal pollution rules it’s currently violating.

Under the state’s plan, the Houston area, which has worse air quality, would get about $27 million.

From the TCEQ's draft plan for distributing money from the VW emissions scandal settlement.
From the TCEQ’s draft plan for distributing money from the VW emissions scandal settlement.

The City of Houston says about a quarter of the cheating VW cars that were in Texas were driving in the Houston region.

“So we deserve at least a quarter of those funds, because we’re the ones that were harmed,” said Kris Banks, a government relations assistant with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office.

In a recent letter, Turner asked the TCEQ to give at least $50 million to the Houston area. He also said the state should get rid of or lower a requirement that Houston mus match 40 percent of the state allocation with local money, arguing the Houston region is still facing financial strains from Hurricane Harvey.

The TCEQ’s draft plan notes that a separate amount of about $31 million from the settlement will be available to all cities statewide, specifically for use in building charging/refueling stations for electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The agency didn’t respond directly to the comments from Houston officials, but said it’s taking public comments on the plan through October 8.