LETTER – NJ to Receive $72 Million in VW Settlement: Will Christie Act?

Yesterday the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust settlement was finalized. New Jersey will have 60 days to accept the money of up to up to $72 million. States must identify a lead agency to supervise the distribution of settlement money no later than Friday, December 1, 2017 in order to access these funds. We have a huge opportunity to use this money for new plug-in network of electric vehicle charging stations, electric transit and school buses, and other projects that will reduce air pollution and prioritize environmental justice. These initiatives are so critical in New Jersey because the biggest source of air pollution and greenhouse gases in our state comes from cars and trucks.

“The clock is ticking on whether Governor Christie will accept $72 million from the Volkswagen Settlement. We are concerned that he won’t accept these funds because he can’t use them to plug holes in the budget or divert them as he’s done with past settlements. Volkswagen must pay this settlement because they were caught illegally polluting our air. The settlement money is to mitigate for the pollution and is critical to get us moving with electric cars, create jobs, and reduce air pollution,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Christie has been a stumbling block in the development of electric vehicles in NJ and the Legislature has had to circumvent him to allow Teslas to be sold in the state. We’re concerned that he may hold NJ’s electric vehicles hostage to politics by not accepting this settlement.”

The biggest source of air pollution and greenhouse gases NJ comes from automobiles. Each year, American passenger vehicles spew upwards of three trillion tons of carbon pollution into the air by burning about 121 billion gallons of gasoline. Air pollution is especially dangerous in many of our cities and ports. Newark and Camden are some of the worst polluted cities nationwide. Switching to EV busses and trucks without tailpipes will eliminate much of that dangerous smog and contaminates, but also help fight climate change.

“New Jersey needs to move forward on electric vehicles and plug-ins and this $72 million could jumpstart our clean transportation system. We need to make sure that that funds go to the right places including to plug-ins and helping urban areas where air pollution is worst. This will help create jobs and move our state forward with an automobile that has zero emissions and decrease fossil fuels. The biggest source of air pollution and greenhouse gases in our state comes from automobiles, which is why we need to increase electric vehicles to clean our air. We need to install plug-in stations along with providing things like zip cars, ride shares, and taxis to encourage EV’s that everyone can afford,” said Jeff Tittel. “We need to get these plans in place now; this can’t wait until the next Governor.”

A fully electric vehicle uses electricity to power a battery. This means no gasoline, no dirty oil changes, and no internal combustion engine. Thanks to rebates and tax credits, decreasing prices in EV technology, and the much cheaper price of electricity vs. gasoline, the cost of owning and operating an electric vehicle is now notably lower than that of many conventional vehicles. There are currently more than 20 fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles available at US dealerships. GM is discussing new models and some states want to phase out gasoline-cars altogether. New Jersey must continue to support the sale of electric vehicles, install charging stations, and commit to a more sustainable transportation future if we want to meet California’s goals.

“Our state hasn’t even gotten out of the starting gate on electric vehicles because Christie’s policies have slowed us down. We really need these settlement funds as a jump start on electric vehicles. We only have about 10,000 electric vehicles, but we should have had 30,000 by now to reach our 2050 goal to meet California’s Clean Car Standards. We cannot do this, however without major incentive programs, education, or program to build charging stations,” said Jeff Tittel. “New Jersey is one of the best states to utilize electric vehicles since most of our energy is already carbon-free. Electric vehicles not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars, but can help stop future drilling, pipelines, and oil bomb trains. If we are able to charge electric vehicles with renewable energy like solar, it is even better for the environment.”

Electric vehicles will help grow our economy as well as protect our environment. EVs are more than five times more efficient than standard vehicles; the average gas automobile is 15% efficient while EVs are 80%. EVs use electricity to power a battery, the technology of which continues to get cheaper and better. By increasing electric vehicle sales, it will help car dealers in selling more fuel efficient cars, help New Jersey companies who are part suppliers for these car parts, and even bring in new companies since we may be the first state on the east coast to implement these practices.

“In the past Christie has sided against EVs but we need him to now accept this money and put aside his political agenda for the people of New Jersey. He refused to join the EV compact and failed to pass legislation to promote EVs and their infrastructure. The electric vehicle compact would helped put 3.3 million electric vehicles on the road. The eight states will enjoy the creation of thousands of jobs, provide infrastructure around the states for EVs, and allow them to leaders in EV technology. New Jersey is clearly missing out on the green jobs because of Christie’s failed policies,” said Jeff Tittel.“While other states are promoting electric vehicles with rebates and thousands of charging stations, our state is falling behind because we have no plan for charging stations or incentive for electric vehicles. We even have $72 million available from the Volkswagen Settlement, but we’re concerned that Christie may rather side with polluters than take the money for electric vehicles.”

Electric vehicles will help grow our economy as well as protect our environment. By increasing electric vehicle sales, it will help car dealers in selling more fuel efficient cars, help New Jersey companies who are part suppliers for these car parts, and even bring in new companies since we may be the first state on the east coast to implement these practices. Tesla even has developed a new battery that charges using electricity generated from solar panels, or when utility rates are low to power your home. These technologies will make it even easier to drive electric vehicles. Instead of moving us forward, the Trump Administration is rolling back Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards as well as the vehicle tailpipe standards finalized under the Obama administration.

“We have two months to accept these funds and use them to help drive our vehicles in the 21st century. This means following California’s lead for strong clean car goals. We need to stop the gridlock with electric vehicles. While Trump is rolling back CAFE standards, it makes it even more important for New Jersey to be a leader in electric vehicles and the infrastructure to support them,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We’re calling on Governor Christie to accept these funds and use them to move New Jersey forward with electric vehicles. We can see the benefits of clean air and clean jobs if we put this money to good use. We can build a state-wide network of charging stations, create green jobs, save people money on gas, and reduce air pollution.”

Jamie Zaccaria