Hi, my name is [NAME] and I’m a constituent from [CITY, ZIP].
I urge you to oppose HR 732, which has passed the House and is now in the Senate. This bill is unnecessary and harmful to the victims of those who violate federal laws that protect the environment, civil rights, banking and many other aspects of the public good. There is no “slush fund,” as the title of the act suggests. It is entirely appropriate to direct a portion of settlement funds to help mitigate the harm caused by the guilty party. California, along with other states, benefited from the 2016 settlement with Volkswagon over its defeating emission controls on diesel engines. In recognition of California’s major diesel pollution problems, the state received at least $800M from the settlement to help offset the harm caused by the uncontrolled Volkswagon emissions.
Thank you for your time and attention.
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This bill has passed the House and is now in the Senate. Currently, when federal agencies reach settlements with violators or criminals who have harmed the environment, civil rights, bank customers and others, the settlements may include provisions for the guilty party to direct funds to a non-governmental organization to help mitigate the harm they caused.
For example in 2016, in an action initiated by the EPA, a settlement was reached with Volkswagen and affiliated companies as a result of their purposefully installing devices that defeated emission controls on 590,000 diesel vehicles. The settlement requires VW to provide $800 million to California and $1.2 billion to other states to help expand the use of electric cars and other “zero emission vehicles.” VW also must pay $2.7 billion into an “Environmental Mitigation Trust” for state initiatives to reduce air pollution from cars, trucks, and off-road sources like locomotive engines or bulldozers. These measures recognize the unique air pollution issues in parts of California, and are intended to offset harm caused by having the dirty vehicles on the road. Similar types of settlements have been made directing funds to aid victims of civil rights, banking and other abuses.
The bills’ title, “Stop the Settlement Slush Funds Act,” is deliberately misleading, because there is no slush fund and no evidence that these settlement projects have been abused. According to Eric Shaefer of the Environmental Integrity Project, “This legislation is really a gift to polluting companies that don’t need it – and a blow to state and local governments, which often benefit from these environmental projects to improve the quality of life for their citizens.”