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Travis County asks state for a chunk of Volkswagen settlement

Wednesday, June 27, 2018 by Caleb Pritchard

Central Texas governments could get more than $24 million to spend on new vehicles if the Travis County Commissioners Court gets its way. On Tuesday, the court voted unanimously to send a letter to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality asking for a cut of the massive payout offered by Volkswagen to settle a lawsuit brought by the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of California. The suit alleged that Volkswagen installed software in its vehicles to cheat on emissions tests. Gov. Greg Abbott appointed the TCEQ to handle Texas’ $209 million slice of the settlement. The court’s letter says that because 11.6 percent of VW owners live in Travis, Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays and Williamson counties, the Austin metro area should receive 11.6 percent of the money. Furthermore, the letter proposes that that money should be spent on fleet vehicles for local governments. Before voting on whether to send the letter, Commissioner Gerald Daugherty expressed reservation. “I just don’t want to send it and see it get put in the trash can,” he said, adding that he would prefer to do some in-person lobbying of TCEQ officials. Staff explained that TCEQ’s final plan for distributing the money won’t be ready until the late fall following two to three months of public outreach, a timeline that County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said was wide enough to accommodate both the letter and face-to-face discussions. “There’s no harm in sending this thing along given the fact that we’ve got more time than what I thought,” a mollified Daugherty said.

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