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Tribal Clean Transportation:

The Volkswagen Settlement

The Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Environmental Mitigation Trust for Indian Tribe Beneficiaries (the "Indian Tribe Trust") was set up after VW was caught in 2015 cheating on emissions tests for Clean Air Act standards by programming their diesel cars to know when they were being tested, and reduce emissions to meet the standards. It was discovered that during normal driving conditions the cars actually produced up to 40 times the legal limit for air pollutants such as oxides of nitrogen (NOx), which can be harmful to both human health and the environment. A portion of the record fine the company paid to the US government was set aside to fund state and tribal mitigation projects to reduce NOx emissions elsewhere to make up for the excess pollutants emitted by the cars, attempting to essentially undo the damage to air quality caused by VW's cheating.

VW Technical Assistance Program

ITEP was designated as the technical assistance provider in the Trust Agreement that established the Indian Tribe Trust. Over the course of four annual funding cycles ITEP’s team conducted outreach to inform Tribes about the Indian Tribe Trust and how it might benefit their communities, worked with nearly 200 Tribes to answer questions about the program, and helped tribal staff complete the documents required to participate in the program from start to finish.

Tribal Projects

Since the Indian Tribe Trust began in 2018, 92 individual Tribes applied for and received over $51 million from the VW settlement to replace old, high-emitting diesel vehicles and generators, and install electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. Of the 301 vehicles and generators that were replaced, 75% were medium or large heavy-duty trucks, 16% were buses and 8% were generators. Eleven of the new trucks and buses purchased are electric or hybrid vehicles, and the funding also supported the installation of 89 light duty EV charging stations on tribal lands. These purchases are further reducing emissions of NOx and other harmful air pollutants, and helping Tribes transition to a cleaner energy future with less dependence on fossil fuels. In all, the tribal program is estimated to have removed approximately 1450 tons of NOx over the remaining life of the vehicles and generators replaced (not including reductions from the EV charging stations).

Current Status

As of early 2023 the four funding cycles established in the Trust Agreement are complete and the program is winding down. Although there will be no more funding cycles, the Trustee of the program and the US Department of Justice are currently considering how to dispense the funds remaining in the Trust. ITEP will continue to provide technical assistance as needed until all the funds are dispensed and the program is closed out.

For questions please contact program manager Mark Daniels, at (