By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.
The Washington Department of Ecology has fined Volkswagen AG, Audi, and Volkswagen Group of America (collectively Volkswagen), $176 million for installing on many of its diesel vehicles illegal software designed to cheat and falsify emissions tests. These diesel vehicles emitted up to 40 times the permitted levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx). Exposure to these pollutants is linked with a range of serious health effects, including increased asthma attacks, and contributes to premature death from respiratory-related or cardiovascular disease. Children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing respiratory diseases are particularly vulnerable to these pollutants (Washington Dept. of Ecology Press Release, July 28, 2016).
Ecology’s penalty holds Volkswagen accountable for the environmental damage caused by the more than 21,000 diesel vehicles registered in Washington with the fraudulent software and is separate from the consumer settlement. The penalty was based on per-vehicle violations. Once collected, it will be held in an air pollution control account. Volkswagen now has 30 days to appeal the penalty to the Pollution Control Hearings Board.
Washington and 42 other states, plus the District of Columbia, are part of a multi-state investigation into Volkswagen’s actions. The investigation began after EPA issued a September 2015 notice to Volkswagen that it had violated the federal Clean Air Act. Since then, Volkswagen has admitted fault and reached a $14.7 billion settlement with EPA. VW agreed to buy back affected vehicles or repair the vehicles to meet emission standards, and fund nationwide projects to reduce air pollution from vehicles, including developing support structure for electric vehicle charging stations.
As part of the agreement, VW has agreed to pay $2.7 billion into a fund to be used by states and tribes to pay for the harm caused by the excess emissions from the vehicles with the illegal software installed. States will receive a proportionate share of the settlement based on the number of affected vehicles in the respective states.
On July 15, 2015, Volkswagen agreed to establish a $10.33 billion funding pool to settle class allegations that approximately 450,000 2.0 liter VW and Audi branded turbocharged direct-injection (TDI) diesel vehicles sold in the United States were equipped with defeat device software designed to reduce the effectiveness of the vehicles’ emission control systems with respect to nitrogen oxides (NOx).
MainStory: TopStory MotorEquipmentNews MotorVehiclesNews
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