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to all-electric alternatives can reduce long-term costs, gas consumption and harmful pollution, while bringing our outdated transportation system into the 21st century.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

Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection, Democracy, Health Care, Safe Energy, Solid Waste

Wins, losses, and 'almost did its' for 2020 | Emily Scarr

The Maryland General Assembly wrapped up the 2020 legislative session last week, weeks earlier than expected. While the public health crisis meant some of our legislative priorities didn’t make it through this year, we still have a lot to celebrate.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Coronavirus worry triggers most surgical mask, sanitizer prices to spike at least 50% on Amazon

As the Coronvirus outbreak became more widespread, the price of most of the sanitizers and masks rose at least 50 percent higher than the 90-day average. Even one in six products sold directly by Amazon saw prices rise at least 50 percent higher in February

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Just let us fix our tractor! | Emily Scarr

We support HB799, Right to Repair, or as we call it, the “Just Let us Fix our own Tractor Act.”  Maryland Farmers invest a lot in their equipment, but companies use their power in the marketplace to make it harder or more expensive to repair, or even designed to fail.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection, Democracy, Safe Energy, Solid Waste

Our 2020 Maryland Legislative AgendaEmily ScarrRishi Shah

As the state's small donor funded public interest advocacy organization we are working hard on behalf of thousands of members across the state to protect public health, foster a stronger democracy, reduce waste, and more.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Hack doesn’t absolve Equifax of being careless with consumers’ data

Congress must hold companies accountable for failing to protect condumers' confidential information.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Coronavirus worry triggers most surgical mask, sanitizer prices to spike at least 50% on Amazon

As the Coronvirus outbreak became more widespread, the price of most of the sanitizers and masks rose at least 50 percent higher than the 90-day average. Even one in six products sold directly by Amazon saw prices rise at least 50 percent higher in February

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Hack doesn’t absolve Equifax of being careless with consumers’ data

Congress must hold companies accountable for failing to protect condumers' confidential information.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Maryland PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection, Safe Energy

Statement: Maryland PIRG response to Governor Hogan's Energy Plan

Annapolis — Governor Hogan has joined the rapidly growing movement across the United States calling for a transition to 100% clean, renewable energy. Unfortunately, his proposal falls short on delivering the clean energy future its title suggests.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Critical Product Safety Legislation Introduced in House by Representative Rush

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush releases legislation to increase transparency around important product injury and death data. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

Statement: States should adopt strict limits on pollution in Transportation and Climate Initiative

Twelve states plus Washington, D.C. released new details today about a program to reduce global warming emissions from transportation. The Transportation and Climate Initiative will create an enforceable and mandatory limit on transportation pollution, and will generate funding that could be invested in cleaner alternatives. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

Convincing retailers to remove toxic chemicals from products

Maryland PIRG joined groups across the country to call on major retailers to address toxic chemicals in their supply chain. Thanks to our work, both Macy’s and Ashley Furniture announced they would stop using toxic flame retardants in their furniture. We also convinced Lowe’s and Home Depot to phase out phthalates from their flooring. 

> Keep Reading

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.

> Keep Reading

Reining in Wall Street

On July 15, the U.S. Senate passed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act by a count of 60 to 39.

> Keep Reading

BPA Ban

In 2010, Maryland became the 4th state in the nation to phase out the toxic chemcial CPA from baby bottles and sippy cups.

> Keep Reading

Ending Credit card abuses

Many abusive credit card practices, such as repeated over-the-limit fees and universal default are outlawed thanks to a 2010 federal law backed by Maryland PIRG.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Consumers for Auto Reliability And Safety (CARS) Foundation | Consumer Protection

Unsafe used cars for sale

AutoNation, which bills itself as “America’s Largest Auto Retailer,” is selling recalled used vehicles that contain dangerous safety defects. In a survey of over 2,400 used vehicles for sale at 28 AutoNation locations, 1 in 9 were found to have unrepaired safety recalls.

> Keep Reading
Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Transportation

HIGHWAY BOONDOGGLES 5

America’s aging roads and bridges need fixing. Our car-dependent transportation system is dangerous, harms our communities, and is the nation’s leading source of global warming pollution. And more than ever before, it is clear that America needs to invest in giving people healthier, more sustainable transportation options.

> Keep Reading
Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Transportation

Driving Into Debt

In much of America, access to a car is all but required to hold a job or lead a full and vibrant life. Generations of car-centric transportation policies — including lavish spending on roads, sprawl-inducing land use policies and meager support for other modes of transportation — have left millions of Americans fully dependent on cars for daily living.

> Keep Reading
Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Public Health, Consumer Protection

HOW SAFE IS OUR FOOD?

While our food safety system has improved significantly over the last 100 years, when toxics, fake foodstuffs and bacteria regularly infiltrated the supply, it is clear there is more work to do. A modern society relies on ensuring that the daily act of eating does not undermine the health of the population. 

> Keep Reading
Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation and Ecology Center | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Hidden Hazards

The Ecology Center's has released test results and product ratings in their 2018 report, Hidden Hazards: Flame Retardants & PFAS in Children's Car Seats. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection, Democracy, Health Care, Safe Energy, Solid Waste

Wins, losses, and 'almost did its' for 2020 | Emily Scarr

The Maryland General Assembly wrapped up the 2020 legislative session last week, weeks earlier than expected. While the public health crisis meant some of our legislative priorities didn’t make it through this year, we still have a lot to celebrate.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Just let us fix our tractor! | Emily Scarr

We support HB799, Right to Repair, or as we call it, the “Just Let us Fix our own Tractor Act.”  Maryland Farmers invest a lot in their equipment, but companies use their power in the marketplace to make it harder or more expensive to repair, or even designed to fail.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection, Democracy, Safe Energy, Solid Waste

Our 2020 Maryland Legislative AgendaEmily ScarrRishi Shah

As the state's small donor funded public interest advocacy organization we are working hard on behalf of thousands of members across the state to protect public health, foster a stronger democracy, reduce waste, and more.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

The cyclist’s dilemma: How safety, climate and air pollution collide on America’s roadways | Matt Casale

Walkers and bikers are getting killed at alarming rates -- at a time when we need this type of transportation more than ever. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

In the wake of the Capital One data breach, Ed Mierzwinski and Adam Garber explain how to protect your credit

Were you affected by the Capital One breach, one of the largest thefts of data from any bank to date?

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

In the wake of the Capital One data breach, Ed Mierzwinski and Adam Garber explain how to protect your credit

Were you affected by the Capital One breach, one of the largest thefts of data from any bank to date?

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Solid Waste, Transportation

Before we spend $2 trillion, report recommends a 'Blueprint for Tomorrow'

For all of us who rely on our roads and public transit, and our water, sewage and power systems, the agreement reached by President Trump and Democratic congressional leaders in May to commit $2 trillion to infrastructure should be good news.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

State PIRGs go to Washington for Consumer Lobby Day

Members of Congress hear repeatedly from lobbyists for corporate special interests in their offices and at fundraisers. How can consumer advocates balance the scales?

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Congressional testimony underscores how predatory auto loans are driving Americans into debt

In most of the country, owning a car is all but required. And we're paying for it—to the tune of $1.2 trillion. This is putting the financial well-being of millions of Americans at risk, and Maryland PIRG and our national network are calling for change.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Make VW Pay, Transportation

Some states are spending funds from VW 'Dieselgate' settlement on diesel

When it comes to clean transportation, most U.S. states are underutilizing funds from Volkswagen’s nearly $3 billion settlement with federal authorities for violating emissions standards.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post

The Maryland General Assembly wrapped up the 2020 legislative session last week, weeks earlier than expected. While the public health crisis meant some of our legislative priorities didn’t make it through this year, we still have a lot to celebrate.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

As the Coronvirus outbreak became more widespread, the price of most of the sanitizers and masks rose at least 50 percent higher than the 90-day average. Even one in six products sold directly by Amazon saw prices rise at least 50 percent higher in February

Blog Post

We support HB799, Right to Repair, or as we call it, the “Just Let us Fix our own Tractor Act.”  Maryland Farmers invest a lot in their equipment, but companies use their power in the marketplace to make it harder or more expensive to repair, or even designed to fail.

Blog Post

As the state's small donor funded public interest advocacy organization we are working hard on behalf of thousands of members across the state to protect public health, foster a stronger democracy, reduce waste, and more.

News Release | U.S. PIRG

Congress must hold companies accountable for failing to protect condumers' confidential information.

Consumer Protection

Food recall failure

Most grocery store chains are not warning their customers about dangerous food recalls. Find out if your store makes the grade.

 

Consumer Protection

More than 165,000 life-threatening infant sleepers recalled

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced on Jan. 29 that four companies have issued recalls for more than 165,000 inclined infant sleepers, which fail to meet the safe sleep guidelines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The CPSC's recall is an important step forward — we're continuing to urge manufacturers to stop producing these sleepers for good.

 

Consumer Protection

New federal bill will make it easier for consumers to know about unsafe, even deadly products

If you had a product in your home that the government knew could cause injury or death, you'd expect the government to warn you, right? Surprisingly, that's not the case for the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The "Safety Hazard and Recall Efficiency Information Act" seeks to change that.

 

Consumer Protection

The Trump administration's Consumer Bureau just appointed a task "farce" on consumer law

The Trump administration's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau just appointed a new task force on consumer law — but according to senior director of PIRG's federal consumer program, Ed Mierzwinski, this task force isn't set up to be on the side of consumers. "It is a task farce," he said.

 
View AllRSS Feed

Support us

Your donation supports Maryland PIRG's work to stand up for consumers on the issues that matter, especially when powerful interests are blocking progress.

Consumer Alerts

Join our network and stay up to date on our campaigns, get important consumer updates, and take action on critical issues.
Optional Member Code



Maryland PIRG is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to getting things done.