Volkswagen will pay $157 million to 10 states that sued the company for its secret use of unlawful "defeat device" software to enable their diesel-powered cars to pass emissions inspections.
It's the first time the states have won environmental penalties against an automaker on their own. Previously, such cases were handled soley by the federal government.
“Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche tried to pull off an extraordinarily cynical corporate fraud – deceiving hundreds of thousands of consumers, pumping thousands of tons of harmful pollution into our air, and flouting New York and federal environmental laws designed to protect public health,” said New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “This went on for nearly a decade, for no other reason than their bottom line, so the companies could avoid the expense of engineering cars that would actually meet our environmental standards."
"Adding insult to injury, they marketed these dirty vehicles as environmentally-friendly and technologically-advanced – not only deceiving consumers and harming our environment, but also undercutting the sales of their law-abiding competitors,” Schneiderman said.
States follow California
The lawsuits that led to the settlement were filed last summer by New York and Massachusetts. All of the states joining in the action have adopted California's stringent vehicle emission standards. The other states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
Schneiderman said that setting the precedent of states enforcing emission laws is important because of President Trump's vow to defund federal environmental enforcement, leaving states like New York and California as the first line of defense in environmental matters.
"New York will continue to enforce the tough auto emission and greenhouse gas standards established by California, and intends to oppose any effort by the federal government to roll back EPA emission standards currently in place," a statement from Schneiderman's office said.
As part of today’s settlement, Volkswagen has agreed to substantially increase its commitment to New York’s emerging electric car market. The agreement requires Volkswagen to – by 2020 – at least triple the number of electric car models its Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi brands offer to New Yorkers from one model to three, including two electric SUVs.
“Volkswagen was caught – and today’s settlement means we’ve now held them to full account,” Schneiderman continued. “No company – however large or powerful – is above the law in New York. As we’ve made clear, if the federal government fails to do its job, I will continue to enforce our state’s environmental laws and hold accountable anyone who violates them – to ensure New Yorkers’ public health and environment are protected.”