Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Feds Sue Volkswagen in Diesel Emissions Scandal

Climate

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday filed suit against Volkswagen charging that the German auto-maker deliberately rigged cars to cheat emissions tests resulting in potentially millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions and untold damage to the atmosphere.

Environmental groups have estimated that the cheating scandal caused at least 32.2 million tons of extra carbon pollution into the atmosphere, equal to roughly 6.8 million cars. Photo credit: European Parliament / Flickr

The civil suit, filed on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), alleges that nearly 600,000 diesel engine vehicles had illegal defeat devices installed that impair their emission control systems and cause emissions to exceed EPA’s standards. Further, the complaint states that Volkswagen violated the Clean Air Act by bringing to U.S. market vehicles that were designed differently than the company had stated in applications for certification to EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

"With today’s filing, we take an important step to protect public health by seeking to hold Volkswagen accountable for any unlawful air pollution, setting us on a path to resolution," Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance at EPA, said.

Environmental groups have estimated that the cheating scandal caused at least 32.2 million tons of extra carbon pollution into the atmosphere, equal to roughly 6.8 million cars.

"What Volkswagen did wasn’t just consumer fraud, it was a crime against our climate and against future generations relying on us for a livable planet," Peter Galvin, director of programs at the Center of Biological Diversity, said after the scandal first erupted in September when the EPA sent a Notice of Violation of the Clean Air Act to the manufacturer and its subsidiaries.

The Center of Biological Diversity had previously calculated that Volkswagen should owe as much as $25 billion in fines for damages to climate and air quality. In a statement on Monday, Galvin said he was "heartened" by the development and urged the DOJ to pursue the full estimated compensation for the emissions cheating.

In addition to its environmental impact, pollution by nitrogen oxides (or NOx) has been linked to grave health problems, namely asthma and other serious respiratory illnesses—with children, the elderly and people with pre-existing respiratory disease particularly at risk. What's more, recent studies have shown that the direct health effects of NOx are worse than previously understood and may also include damage to lung tissue and premature death.

Monday's suit seeks injunctive relief and the assessment of civil penalties. According to the EPA, it does not preclude the government from seeking other "legal remedies." Though Giles noted that "recall discussions with the company have not produced an acceptable way forward."

"Car manufacturers that fail to properly certify their cars and that defeat emission control systems breach the public trust, endanger public health and disadvantage competitors," Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said. "The U.S. will pursue all appropriate remedies against Volkswagen to redress the violations of our nation’s clean air laws alleged in the complaint."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Teflon’s Toxic Legacy: DuPont Knew for Decades It Was Contaminating Water Supplies

Porter Ranch Natural Gas Leak Spews 150 Million Pounds of Methane, Will Take Months to Fix

China Clamps Down on Coal

Elon Musk Signs Open Letter Proposing Radical Fix to VW’s Emission Scandal

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Deserted view of NH24 near Akshardham Temple on day nine of the 21-day nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus on April 2, 2020 in New Delhi, India. Raj K Raj / Hindustan Times via Getty Images

India is home to 21 of the world's 30 most polluted cities, but recently air pollution levels have started to drop dramatically as the second-most populated nation endures the second week of a 21-day lockdown amidst coronavirus fears, according to The Weather Channel.

Read More Show Less
A Unicef social mobilizer uses a speaker as she carries out public health awareness to prevent the spread and detect the symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus by UNICEF at Mangateen IDP camp in Juba, South Sudan on April 2. ALEX MCBRIDE / AFP / Getty Images

By Eddie Ndopu

  • South Africa is ground zero for the coronavirus pandemic in Africa.
  • Its townships are typical of high-density neighbourhoods across the continent where self-isolation will be extremely challenging.
  • The failure to eradicate extreme poverty is a threat beyond the countries in question.
Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The outside of the Food and Drug Administration headquarters in White Oak, Md. on Nov. 9, 2015. Al Drago / CQ Roll Call

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of two malarial drugs to treat and prevent COVID-19, the respiratory infection caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, despite only anecdotal evidence that either is proven effective in treating or slowing the progression of the disease in seriously ill patients.

Read More Show Less
Some speculate that the dissemination of the Antarctic beeches or Nothofagus moorei (seen above in Australia) dates to the time when Antarctica, Australia and South America were connected. Auscape / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

A team of scientists drilled into the ground near the South Pole to discover forest and fossils from the Cretaceous nearly 90 million years ago, which is the time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, as the BBC reported.

Read More Show Less
The recovery of elephant seals is one of the "signs of hope" that scientists say show the oceans can recover swiftly if we let them. NOAA / CC BY 2.0

The challenges facing the world's oceans are well known: plastic pollution could crowd out fish by 2050, and the climate crisis could wipe out coral reefs by 2100.

Read More Show Less