San Antonio to Get a Third of Volkswagen Money in Texas Plan

Photographer: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

  • Texas received $209 million from Volkswagen trust fund
  • 81 percent of the money will be allocated to largest Texas cities

San Antonio, recently added to the EPA list of regions violating federal ozone pollution standards, stands to be the biggest winner under Texas’ plan to divvy up the $209 million it will receive from Volkswagen over the diesel emissions cheating scandal.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality released a draft plan for public review Aug. 8 that would allocate most of the Volkswagen funds to the state’s largest cities and counties for pollution-reduction efforts, through a competitive first-come, first-served grant process managed by the commission. The money would go to cleaner buses, heavy duty vehicles, airport cargo vehicles, engine upgrades, ocean cargo, and industrial equipment as well as for infrastructure for electric, hydrogen, and natural gas-powered vehicles.

Under the plan, San Antonio, including Bexar County, would receive $73.6 million, the largest amount of any of Texas’ cities.

“We have been hard at work developing the most effective plan for efficiently and effectively investing these resources,” Diane Rath, executive director of the Alamo Area Council of Governments, an association of San Antonio-area governments, said in an email to Bloomberg Environment. “We appreciate the recognition by [the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality] as to the transformative impact these funds will make “

The EPA in July announced that Bexar County will need to take extra steps to clean up air pollution even though most of the San Antonio region has met federal requirements for ozone. The Alamo Area Council of Governments had predicted clamping down on pollution would cost the region $173 million per year.

Executives from CPS Energy, San Antonio’s municipally owned utility, are also reviewing the proposed plan. The company plans to close a 1970s era coal-powered plant to help the city improve air quality and is electrifying its vehicle fleet and developing a solar storage battery project.

“We are in discussions with our partners about this TCEQ funding and we will utilize all resources available for air quality improvement solutions,” Kim Stoker, CPS Energy’s senior director of environment and sustainability, told Bloomberg Environment.

The Volkswagen money comes from a national trust established after the EPA and California found that some of the German automaker’s diesel vehicles had cheated on federal nitrogen oxides emissions tests. Nitrogen oxides contribute to the formation of ozone, a lung irritant.

Plan Praised

The Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter praised Texas’ plan to invest the money in cities violating federal clean air standards.

The Sierra Club has received funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg Environment is operated by entities controlled by Michael Bloomberg.

“While we will file comments about the need to include some monies for near non-attainment areas like Corpus Christi, Victoria, Tyler-Longview, and Austin, and to, in general, provide larger incentives for electric as opposed to natural gas-fueled vehicles, in general we are supportive of TCEQ’s proposed plan,” Cyrus Reed, conservation director of the Lone Star Chapter, told Bloomberg Environment.

As part of the plan, Texas proposed that the Dallas Fort Worth area would receive $29.1 million, the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area $27.4 million, and El Paso at $26.8 million. In total, 81 percent of the funds will be allocated to Texas’s heavily populated cities and counties.

Cities such as Houston could see even more money as a result of separate lawsuits brought by local governments. Harris County, home to Houston, has its own lawsuit against the automaker that is still ongoing, Robert Soard, first assistant county attorney, said in an email to Bloomberg Environment.

Texas’ plan is preliminary and the implications of it for Houston, if any, were are unclear, a city spokesman told Bloomberg Environment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Karn Dhingra in Houston, Texas at kdhingra@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bloombergenvironment.com