Make VW Pay

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says Volkswagen designed some 567,000 "clean" diesel cars to violate the law. They built elaborate software, called a "defeat device," to turn on emissions controls during testing and turn them off during regular driving. By cheating the law, VW ripped off hundreds of thousands of consumers who thought they were buying clean vehicles. They put our health at risk, emitting as much as 40 times the legal limit of smog-forming pollutants.

Yet, their deceit and the subsequent settlement now represents a historic opportunity to drastically reduce the harmful pollution that makes us sick and accelerates climate change by providing an essential down payment toward the transition to a clean and modern 21st century transportation system. 

According to the terms of the VW settlement, agreed to by VW and the Department of Justice, VW will pay a total of $14.7 billion in damages for their role in violating federal clean air laws.

Out of the total settlement, $2.7 billion will be distributed to states specifically to reduce NOx pollution, a major component of diesel exhaust. Each state will be required to ask for the funds and to develop a plan for how the money will be used to reduce NOx emissions. 
 
NOx poses a serious threat to human health and has been shown to aggravate and even contribute to the development of respiratory illnesses. NOx is also a key component of smog, which has similar respiratory and health impacts and contributes to acid rain. In addition, diesel exhaust, which contains NOx, carbon dioxide (CO2), particulate matter, and other pollutants, was classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization in 2012.
 
Given the unique challenges and opportunities in each state, the settlement leaves a good amount of flexibility in how the money may be used. However, that flexibility presents its own challenges, opening up the possibility of squandering the money on older, dirtier technologies like diesel and natural gas, while forgoing clean, electric alternatives. Such a move would represent a massive missed opportunity to transition to a cleaner, healthier and modern all-electric system, while only realizing marginal pollution reduction benefits. 
 
Transitioning to all-electric alternatives can reduce long-term costs, gas consumption and harmful pollution, while bringing our outdated transportation system into the 21st century. Therefore, it is essential that these funds be invested wisely.
 
Ensuring that the funds are used wisely will result in several distinct benefits including, but not limited to:
  • Drastically reducing NOx, ground-level ozone (smog), and particulate matter;
  • Significantly reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions; 
  • Reducing long-term fuel consumption, maintenance, and operation costs of public fleet vehicles;
  • Adding needed stability to the price of energy inputs for vehicles;
  • Increasing public awareness and adoption of electric vehicles as cleaner alternatives to traditional gas-powered vehicles. 
To ensure this opportunity is not lost, we're educating the state agencies entrusted with these funds and urging them to spend the maximum allowable amount (15 percent) on electric vehicle charging infrastructure for the state’s highways, while investing the remaining funds on replacing outdated, dirty transit buses. We believe that this is the best possible use of the funds to reduce harmful pollution, lower costs and accelerate a market transformation to an all-electric, 21st century transportation system. 
 
Simultaneously, we are acting to educate and mobilize the public on this opportunity, and bring together likeminded advocates from across the political spectrum to do the same. As leaders in the movement to hold VW accountable, and because of our previous work to ensure a fair and beneficial settlement to VW consumers and the general public, we are uniquely positioned to continue leading this fight. However, if we do not act now, this opportunity will pass and state decision makers may use these funds in counterproductive ways, missing the opportunity to make a substantial down payment on a cleaner, healthier transportation system.
 

Issue updates

Protecting Those Who Serve

Hartford, CT – Debt collection abuses were the leading source (32%) of 44,000 servicemember complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), according to a new report. Further,  Congress is taking up a bill this week  intended to cripple the CFPB and would place servicemembers, veterans and their families in “financial harm’s way,” thereby threatening unit preparedness.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

#KickTheCan: BPA still found in many grocery stores’ canned foods | Dev Gowda

We’re all told to watch out for BPA in drinking bottles and baby products. But how about BPA in the cans that contain our food? A recent study by Center for Environmental Health (CEH) reveals that the toxic chemical BPA is readily found in canned foods. BPAs are often used in the liners of canned food to keep the aluminum from interacting with the food.

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L'Oréal: Pledge to Be Toxic-Free

Today, ConnPIRG, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (a project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP)), and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families delivered more than 150,000 petition signatures calling on the multinational cosmetic giant L’Oréal USA to eliminate cancer causing chemicals and to disclose its secret “fragrance” chemicals. 

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News Release | ConnPIRG | Transportation

I-84 Expansion in Danbury Makes National List of Highway Boondoggles, Wastes $715 Million in Taxpayer Dollars

A new report by the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group (ConnPIRG) Education Fund and Frontier Group identifies nine of the most wasteful highway expansion projects across the country, slated to collectively cost at least $10 billion. Making the list of national highway boondoggles is the proposed I-84 expansion in Danbury, expected to cost $715 million. This third iteration of the highway boondoggles report details how despite America’s mounting repair and maintenance backlog, and in defiance of America’s changing transportation needs, federal, state and local governments across the country, including Connecticut, continue to spend billions each year on expanding highways. The report disputes the claims used to justify these investments and argues that the projects are outright boondoggles.

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Report | ConnPIRG | Transportation

Highway Boondoggles 3

A new report by the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group (ConnPIRG) Education Fund and Frontier Group identifies nine of the most wasteful highway expansion projects across the country, slated to collectively cost at least $10 billion. Making the list of national highway boondoggles is the proposed I-84 expansion in Danbury, expected to cost $715 million.

> Keep Reading

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L'Oréal: Pledge to Be Toxic-Free

Today, ConnPIRG, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (a project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP)), and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families delivered more than 150,000 petition signatures calling on the multinational cosmetic giant L’Oréal USA to eliminate cancer causing chemicals and to disclose its secret “fragrance” chemicals. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | ConnPIRG | Transportation

I-84 Expansion in Danbury Makes National List of Highway Boondoggles, Wastes $715 Million in Taxpayer Dollars

A new report by the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group (ConnPIRG) Education Fund and Frontier Group identifies nine of the most wasteful highway expansion projects across the country, slated to collectively cost at least $10 billion. Making the list of national highway boondoggles is the proposed I-84 expansion in Danbury, expected to cost $715 million. This third iteration of the highway boondoggles report details how despite America’s mounting repair and maintenance backlog, and in defiance of America’s changing transportation needs, federal, state and local governments across the country, including Connecticut, continue to spend billions each year on expanding highways. The report disputes the claims used to justify these investments and argues that the projects are outright boondoggles.

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News Release | ConnPIRG | Consumer Protection

New report from leading consumer group shows millions are victims of aggressive tactics from medical debt collectors

ConnPIRG, released the ninth in a series of reports that review complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  The latest report explores consumer complaints about medical debt, a major source of problems for consumers, since medical debt items on credit reports are often wrong or about the wrong consumer.  The report also demonstrates the need to defend the CFPB from partisan and special interest attacks.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Court to Rehear CFPB’s Constitutionality

Statement by Mike Landis, Litigation Director at U.S. PIRG, about today’s decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear en banc the panel ruling against the CFPB’s independent leadership. 

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News Release | Consumer Protection

Unilever: Go Toxic-Free

On Valentine’s Day, consumer groups thank Unilever for great first step in disclosing fragrance ingredients and call on personal care giant to go toxic-free.

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30 years of toy safety

For the past thirty years, our sister organization U.S. PIRG Education Fund has taken a close look at the safety of toys sold in stores. Their reports have led to more than 150 regulatory actions. In November 2015, they released our 30th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

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Protecting Those Who Serve

Hartford, CT – Debt collection abuses were the leading source (32%) of 44,000 servicemember complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), according to a new report. Further,  Congress is taking up a bill this week  intended to cripple the CFPB and would place servicemembers, veterans and their families in “financial harm’s way,” thereby threatening unit preparedness.

> Keep Reading
Report | ConnPIRG | Transportation

Highway Boondoggles 3

A new report by the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group (ConnPIRG) Education Fund and Frontier Group identifies nine of the most wasteful highway expansion projects across the country, slated to collectively cost at least $10 billion. Making the list of national highway boondoggles is the proposed I-84 expansion in Danbury, expected to cost $715 million.

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Report | ConnPIRG Education Fund | Make VW Pay, Transportation

From Deceit to Transformation

A new report from ConnPIRG Education Fund finds that $51.6 Million from the Volkswagen (VW) settlement is headed to Connecticut to help clean up the state’s transportation system and recommends using the funds to purchase electric vehicle fast charging stations for the state’s highways along with an aggressive expansion of all-electric transit buses to replace aging, dirty, diesel buses.

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Report | ConnPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group | Consumer Protection

Big Banks, Big Overdraft Fees

Overdraft fees are a major source of consumer pain, since they are borne disproportionately by Americans with few financial resources. Through the first three quarters of 2016, 626 large banks reported collecting $8.4 billion in revenue from overdraft and NSF fees, an increase of 3.6 percent over the same period in 2015. American consumers should look to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which has already enforced overdraft regulations and returned millions of dollars to consumers, to take new action to prevent unfair overdraft fees.

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Report | ConnPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Predatory Loans & Predatory Loan Complaints

This is the seventh in a series of reports that review complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In this report, we explore consumer complaints about predatory loans, categorized in the database as payday loans, installment loans, and auto title loans.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

#KickTheCan: BPA still found in many grocery stores’ canned foods | Dev Gowda

We’re all told to watch out for BPA in drinking bottles and baby products. But how about BPA in the cans that contain our food? A recent study by Center for Environmental Health (CEH) reveals that the toxic chemical BPA is readily found in canned foods. BPAs are often used in the liners of canned food to keep the aluminum from interacting with the food.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Is On The Job Protecting Consumers | Ed Mierzwinski

While powerful special interests, Senators, the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and the White House call for dismantling the CFPB, firing its excellent director, or worse, CFPB continues to be an agency that is on the job, conducting business as usual to protect consumers. Its latest "Monthly Complaint Snapshot" is an open window into the many reasons we need a strong CFPB.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

This week, CFPB Sues TCF Bank for overdraft schemes and loan servicer Navient for "failing" students | Ed Mierzwinski

Despite an escalation of threats to exterminate the Consumer FInancial Protection Bureau, CFPB continues to protect consumers well. This week it sued TCF Bank over deceptive overdraft marketing schemes and it sued Navient, the student loan servicer and Sallie Mae spinoff, for "failing" students at every step of the repayment process. The TCF complaint notes that its CEO brazenly named his boat "Overdraft."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Report Finds 1 In 4 Consumers Feel "Threatened" By Debt Collector Tactics | Ed Mierzwinski

We joined Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray and Washington, DC Attorney General Karl Racine for release of new CFPB data on debt collector abuses. Fully 1 in 4 consumers feel "threatened" by abusive, possibly illegal, debt collector tactics. The release also included an emphasis on problems with the "debt buyer" industry, comprised of firms that buy older, uncollected debt for as little as less than a penny on the dollar.

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