The Washington Department of Ecology has fined automaker Volkswagen $176 million for installing illegal software on many of its diesel vehicles to cheat and falsify emissions tests. These diesel vehicles emitted up to 40 times the permitted levels of nitrogen oxides – a harmful air pollutant.
“Volkswagen’s actions violated our state’s air quality laws and put people’s health at risk,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “This has caused irreparable damage to the publics’ trust.”
Volkswagen installed sophisticated software designed to turn on a vehicle’s full suite of emissions controls only when it detected that the car’s emissions were being tested, and turn them off during normal driving. This deceitful action released harmful amounts of nitrogen oxides into the air.
Exposure to these pollutants is linked with a range of serious health effects, including increased asthma attacks, and contributes to premature death from respiratory-related or cardiovascular disease. Children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing respiratory diseases are particularly vulnerable to these pollutants.
Today’s penalty holds the automaker accountable for the environmental damage caused by the more than 21,000 vehicles registered in Washington with the fraudulent software.
The $176 million penalty is based on per-vehicle violations, and once collected will be held in an air pollution control account that is used to reduce air pollution in Washington.
Volkswagen now has 30 days to appeal the penalty to the Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board.
In a separate consumer settlement, Washington and 42 other states, plus the District of Columbia, are part of a multistate investigation into Volkswagen’s actions. The investigation began after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued Volkswagen notice that it had violated the federal Clean Air Act in September 2015. Since then, Volkswagen has admitted to the allegations and reached a $14.7 billion settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency. The company agreed to buy back vehicles and fund nationwide projects to reduce air pollution from vehicles, including developing infrastructure for electric vehicle charging stations.