Quantcast

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

Passengers trying to reach Berlin's Tegel Airport on Sunday were hit with delays after police blocked roads and enacted tighter security controls in response to a climate protest.

Read More Show Less
A military police officer in Charlotte, North Carolina, pets Rosco, a post-traumatic stress disorder companion animal certified to accompany him, on Jan. 11, 2014. North Carolina National Guard

For 21 years, Doug Distaso served his country in the United States Air Force.

He commanded joint aviation, maintenance, and support personnel globally and served as a primary legislative affairs lead for two U.S. Special Operations Command leaders.

But after an Air Force plane accident left him with a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and chronic pain, Distaso was placed on more than a dozen prescription medications by doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
(L) Selma Three Stone Engagement Ring. (R) The Greener Diamond Farm Project. MiaDonna

By Bailey Hopp

If you had to choose a diamond for your engagement ring from below or above the ground, which would you pick … and why would you pick it? This is the main question consumers are facing when picking out their diamond engagement ring today. With a dramatic increase in demand for conflict-free lab-grown diamonds, the diamond industry is shifting right before our eyes.

Read More Show Less
Preliminary tests of the bubble barrier have shown it to be capable of ushering 80 percent of the canal's plastic waste to its banks. The Great Bubble Barrier / YouTube screenshot

The scourge of plastic waste that washes up on once-pristine beaches and finds its way into the middle of the ocean often starts on land, is dumped in rivers and canals, and gets carried out to sea. At the current rate, marine plastic is predicted to outweigh all the fish in the seas by 2050, according to Silicon Canals.

Read More Show Less
Man stands on stage at Fort Leonard Wood in the U.S. Brett Sayles / Pexels

Wilson "Woody" Powell served in the Air Force during the Korean war. But in the decades since, he's become staunchly anti-war.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa on Nov. 8. Matt Johnson / CC BY 2.0

By Julia Conley

Joined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Friday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders held the largest rally of any 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to date in Iowa, drawing more than 2,400 people to Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs.

Read More Show Less

Scientists have developed an innovative way to protect endangered rhinos from poaching: flood the market for rhino horn with a cheap, fake alternative.

Read More Show Less
With fires burning across the country, Australian officials say the situation is "unchartered territory." CBC News / YouTube screenshot

More than 130 wildfires were burning on Australia's East Coast Sunday, The Guardian reported. The blazes have killed three and destroyed at least 150 structures so far, and conditions are expected to worsen Tuesday, when the greater Sydney area will face "catastrophic fire danger" for the first time.

Read More Show Less