TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – The US Department of Justice on Monday filed a federal court civil complaint in Detroit, Michigan on behalf of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) against German automotive manufacturers Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche, collectively referred to as Volkswagen.
The complaint alleged that nearly 600 000 diesel engine vehicles had illegal defeat devices installed that impaired their emission control systems and caused emissions to exceed the EPA’s standards, resulting in harmful air pollution.
The complaint further claimed that Volkswagen had violated the Clean Air Act by selling, introducing into commerce, or importing into the US, motor vehicles that were designed differently to what Volkswagen had stated in applications for certification to the EPA and the California Air Resources Board.
“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. So far, recall discussions with the company have not produced an acceptable way forward. These discussions will continue in parallel with the federal court action,” stated EPA assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance Cynthia Giles.
The civil complaint sought injunctive relief and for civil penalties to be assessed.
In line with the EPA’s notices of violation, issued on September 18, for two-litre engines, and on November 2, for certain three-litre engines, the complaint alleged that the defeat devices caused emissions to exceed the EPA’s standards during normal driving conditions. The Clean Air Act required vehicle manufacturers to certify that their products would meet applicable federal emissions standards to control air pollution. The EPA advised that motor vehicles equipped with illegal defeat devices could not be certified.
The complaint further alleged that Volkswagen equipped certain two-litre vehicles with software that detected when the car was being tested for compliance with EPA emissions standards and turned on full emissions controls only during that testing process. During normal driving situations the effectiveness of the emissions control devices was greatly reduced.
This resulted in those cars meeting emissions standards in the laboratory and at the test site, but not during normal on-road driving, when oxides of nitrogen (NOx) were emitted at levels of up to 40 times the EPA compliance level. In total, the civil complaint covered about 499 000 two-litre diesel vehicles sold in the US since the 2009 model year.
The complaint further alleged that Volkswagen also equipped certain three-litre vehicles with software that sensed when the vehicle was undergoing federal emissions testing. When the vehicle sensed the test procedure, it operated in a “temperature conditioning mode, meeting emissions standards. At all other times, including during normal vehicle operation, the vehicles operated in a “normal mode” that permitted NOx emissions of up to nine times the federal standard. In total, the civil complaint covered about 85 000 three-litre diesel vehicles sold in the US since the 2009 model year.
NOx pollution contributes to harmful ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter, which are linked with asthma and other serious respiratory illnesses. Exposure to ozone and particulate matter is also associated with premature death due to respiratory-related or cardiovascular-related effects.
The EPA advised that the US would seek to transfer its case and fully participate in the pretrial proceedings now initiated in the related multidistrict litigation in the Northern District of California.