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to all-electric alternatives can reduce long-term costs, gas consumption and harmful pollution, while bringing our outdated transportation system into the 21st century.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

News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

House Committee Approves Transportation Funding Bill

After a seven-hour hearing, the Colorado House Transportation and Energy Committee approved the CoPIRG-backed HB17-1242, a bi-partisan bill that would invest hundreds of millions of dollars into transportation infrastructure and services over the next 20 years, including at least $100 million in multimodal options that can provide safe routes to schools, better access to jobs and critical medical services, and more affordable and efficient choices to deal with congestion. The bill passed with minor amendments and heads to the House Finance Committee. 

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News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

CoPIRG Calls for Passage of Transportation Bill in House Committee Today

CoPIRG is calling on members of Colorado’s House Transportation and Energy Committee to approve HB17-1242 today. The bi-partisan bill would invest hundreds of millions of dollars into transportation infrastructure and services over the next 20 years, including creating a fund for emergency road maintenance and investing at least $100 million in multimodal options that can provide safe routes to schools, better access to jobs and critical medical services, and more affordable and efficient choices to deal with congestion.  

> 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.

> Keep Reading
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. 

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

> Keep Reading

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News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

House Committee Approves Transportation Funding Bill

After a seven-hour hearing, the Colorado House Transportation and Energy Committee approved the CoPIRG-backed HB17-1242, a bi-partisan bill that would invest hundreds of millions of dollars into transportation infrastructure and services over the next 20 years, including at least $100 million in multimodal options that can provide safe routes to schools, better access to jobs and critical medical services, and more affordable and efficient choices to deal with congestion. The bill passed with minor amendments and heads to the House Finance Committee. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

CoPIRG Calls for Passage of Transportation Bill in House Committee Today

CoPIRG is calling on members of Colorado’s House Transportation and Energy Committee to approve HB17-1242 today. The bi-partisan bill would invest hundreds of millions of dollars into transportation infrastructure and services over the next 20 years, including creating a fund for emergency road maintenance and investing at least $100 million in multimodal options that can provide safe routes to schools, better access to jobs and critical medical services, and more affordable and efficient choices to deal with congestion.  

> Keep Reading
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. 

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

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG Foundation and Snowriders International | Transportation

Guide to Car-Free Skiing Highlights Growing Number of Transportation Options to the Slopes

As tens of thousands of Coloradans prepare to trek from the Front Range to the ski slopes, a new guide from the CoPIRG Foundation and Snowriders International highlights 16 ways for people to get to the slopes without driving their personal car. Among the options, the two groups highlighted CDOT’s soon-to-be-launched SnowStang, the Front Range Ski Bus, RTD’s N line to Eldora, the Winter Park Express ski train, numerous shared shuttles from Denver International Airport and ride share options like Carpool World and SkiCarpool.org.

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Defending Colorado’s Consumer Advocate

For 30 years, Colorado’s consumer advocate, the Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC), has gone to bat for Colorado consumers on gas, electric and telephone matters. All told, it has saved Coloradans more than $1.7 billion on their bills. Despite this track record of success, in 2015 the state legislature came close to eliminating it. CoPIRG helped mobilize public support and generate media attention to save the OCC.

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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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Keeping Families Safe From Dangerous Products

Companies that  violate product safety laws will face stiff fines and penalties,

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Preparing The Way For 21st Century Transportation

In 2009, CoPIRG worked with a broad coalition to secure $16 billion of federal stimulus money for transit projects that will create jobs.

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Report | CoPIRG Foundation and Snowriders International | Transportation

A Guide to Car-Free Skiing in Colorado

For years, the only real way for people to get from the Denver region up to the ski slopes has been to drive their personal car.  The good news is that over the last few winter seasons, options for getting to the slopes without driving your personal car have increased and smart phone technologies have made ride sharing and carpooling an increasingly efficient option.

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Report | CoPIRG | Make VW Pay

The Volkswagen Settlement

Today, Judge Breyer said he was “strongly inclined” to approve a partial settlement between Volkswagen and the U.S. Department of Justice regarding VW’s emissions cheating vehicles and would make a final decision before October 25th. The proposed settlement would provide Colorado with at least $61 million to invest in pollution reduction strategies for Colorado’s transportation system.

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Report | CoPIRG Foundation | 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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Report | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Highway Boondoggles 2

Twelve proposed highway projects across the country – slated to cost at least $24 billion – exemplify the need for a fresh approach to transportation spending. These projects, some originally proposed decades ago, are either intended to address problems that do not exist or have serious negative impacts on surrounding communities that undercut their value. They are but a sampling of many questionable highway projects nationwide that could cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars to build, and many more billions over the course of upcoming decades to maintain.

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Report | CoPIRG | Consumer Protection

9-1-1 Surcharges

Whether you are a farmer on the Eastern Plains with a cell phone, a small business owner in a Western Slope town with a traditional landline, or a retired couple in suburban Denver using an internet-based cable phone service, you pay a fee every month on your telephone bill to ensure that when you dial 9-1-1, your call will be answered.  As fees increase and new 9-1-1 technologies are considered, it is critical that Colorado’s consumer advocate, the Office of Consumer Counsel, is allowed to do its job and ensure consumers are getting the value and service they deserve from our 9-1-1 networ

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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.

> Keep Reading
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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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

This New Year, Celebrate the CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

This month, we published our 8th report based on analyzing consumer complaints collected in the CFPB's Public Consumer Complaint Database. The release of "Big Banks, Big Overdraft Fees" provides a good year-end opportunity to summarize a few of the reasons to be thankful for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which took over in July 2011 as the first federal regulator with just one job: protecting consumers from unfair financial practices. The idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Addicted to Hand Sanitizer: A Wells Fargo Scandal Update | Ed Mierzwinski

More questions continue to be raised about the Wells Fargo scandal. When did it really start- 2013, 2011 or 2005? What did execs know and when did they know it? How many frontline employees were fired because they complained as whistleblowers? Does setting up a fake account constitute criminal identity theft? Should deposed chairman and CEO John Stumpf go to jail? If the culture was pure, how did a frontline worker get "addicted to (drinking) hand sanitizer? Should he pay back more bonus compensation? Here's a flyaround of some of what's going on. By the way, did you know that even the Better Business Bureau has thrown Wells out?

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