VW is hit with another emissions settlement.
The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected Volkswagen’s move to avoid lawsuits filed by Utah, Ohio and Florida seeking damages stemming from the automaker’s diesel emissions scam. Now VW will pay more than $3 million to resolve claims made by the state of Illinois as well involving tampering with emissions controls. And, this is far from the first time the company has been cited and held accountable.
Originally, through three settlements between 2016 and 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) resolved a civil case against Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operations, LLC, and Porsche Cars North America, Inc. In October 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California approved the first settlement, addressing vehicles specifically “containing 2.0 liter diesel engines.” In May 2017, the court approved the second partial settlement addressing vehicles containing slightly larger “3.0 liter diesel engines.” Then, in April 2017 the court approved a settlement encompassing all of its diesel emissions vehicles by making the company pay “civil penalties and injunctive relief to prevent future violations.” All of these settlements are separate from the most recent.
In January 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced $4.3 billion in criminal and civil penalties, arresting six VW executives for their connection with the scam. In the beginning of 2018, VW announced it was filing a lawsuit against a former executive who was sentenced to federal prison for his role. A total of eight current and former top level executives across offices have been charged with various crimes connected to the case. On August 21, 2017, VW engineer James Liang was also sentenced to 40 months in prison and made to pay a $200,000 fine. He pleaded guilty in September 2016. Oliver Schmidt, former general manager of the environmental office in Michigan, was, too, sentenced on December 6 to seven years in prison and made to pay a $400,000 fine.
Volkswagen eventually admitted to installing software in diesel car models “which suspended pollution controls except when the vehicles underwent emissions testing,” according to court documents. This made it appear as if all of the carmakers’ vehicles were emissions free when they, in fact, were not.
Exposure to dangerous emissions levels can be harmful both to the environment and, as a result, to human health, particularly by causing exacerbated respiratory systems. According to the EPA, “Exposure to diesel exhaust can lead to serious health conditions like asthma and respiratory illnesses and can worsen existing heart and lung disease, especially in children and the elderly. These conditions can result in increased numbers of emergency room visits, hospital admissions, absences from work and school,” as well as premature death in some cases.
The EPA also warns, “Emissions from diesel engines contribute to the production of ground level ozone which damages crops, trees and other vegetation.” When exposed crops are consumed, there can be adverse effects to human health.” It can be present in “water, produce, meat and fish.” These emissions also “contribute to property damage and reduced visibility.” The fumes can cause elevated fog levels.
It is unclear whether VW will continue to face legal action for its emissions scandal. Yet, it certainly has a long history of attempting to cover it up.