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Attorney General Mills announces further action filed against VW, Audi, Porsche for violating state environmental regulations
January 6, 2017
AUGUSTA – Attorney General Janet T. Mills today announced she has filed a lawsuit against Volkswagen AG and its affiliates Audi AG and Porsche AG, as well as their American subsidiaries, for the automakers’ sale of diesel automobiles (including about 3,500 in Maine) fitted with illegal “defeat devices” that concealed illegal amounts of harmful emissions and then allegedly misleading regulators and the public about the emissions.
“We will not tolerate the flouting of our state’s environmental laws, the legacy of Senators Ed Muskie and George Mitchell. We will enforce Maine’s environmental standards and will not allow offenders to view serious violations of law as some sort of cost-of-doing-business when they get caught,” said Attorney General Mills. “Our air, water and natural resources and the health of our people are more important than a corporation’s bottom line. We will seek substantial penalties from the Volkswagen companies for these serious violations.”
The court complaint filed by the Attorney General’s Office follows an investigation started in late 2015 by a multistate coalition into Volkswagen’s use of illegal defeat devices. This suit follows the car companies’ partial settlements of claims for consumer relief and consumer deception penalties, as well as their agreement to establish a fund to mitigate the environmental damage caused by their admitted misconduct. Those earlier settlements did not resolve any of the claims for civil penalties that Maine and other states, as well as the EPA, may bring for the companies’ flagrant violations of state and federal environmental laws and regulations.
The Complaint alleges that:
• The three affiliated brands Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche made a knowing decision to violate the laws of Maine and other states not just once, but repeatedly, with different types of defeat devices that cheated on emissions tests. • Starting with model year 2009, Volkswagen and Audi, and later Porsche, began installing these defeat devices in several generations of U.S.-market Volkswagen and Audi diesel engines that equipped over a dozen models, including flagship Audi luxury sedans and high-performance Porsche SUVs, with sales eventually totaling about 3,500 vehicles in Maine. • The defeat devices took the form of computer software designed to ensure that a vehicle's emissions system performed properly only during emissions testing. On the road, the defeat device switched off or scaled back the vehicles’ emissions systems, with the result that the cars and SUVs emitted nitrogen oxides (NOx) – a harmful pollutant linked to numerous respiratory diseases – far above allowable limits, indeed up to 40 times those limits. • The Volkswagen companies actively sought to conceal their use of defeat devices for nearly a year-and-a-half after a study by researchers at West Virginia University that alerted authorities in this country that these diesel cars emitted much more NOx when driven on the road than they did when undergoing emissions testing on equipment used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resource Board (CARB) to test the amount of air pollutants emitted by automobiles. • As a result of use of the illegal defeat devices, thousands of excess tons of NOx are estimated to have been illegally emitted into the air in the U.S., building up harmful ozone in the atmosphere and contributing to increased respiratory health problems and diseases.
Latest court filing seeks to hold car manufacturer accountable for breaking Maine environmental laws by selling cars they knew were using a device to evade emissions standards while being tested