Wyoming Sues Volkswagen Over Diesel Pollution
Wyoming has sued the Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., for violating state environmental regulations.
Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche and related firms in the United States and Germany approved of and designed software technology to hide the emissions of nitrogen oxide, ozone and particulate matter in its diesel vehicles from 2009 to 2016 to pass pollution tests, according to the complaint filed by Attorney General Peter Michael -- acting on behalf of Gov. Matt Mead -- in U.S. District Court on Tuesday.
Mead's spokesman David Bush said Wednesday the state wants Volkswagen to pay for the environmental damage done with its new generation 3.0 liter diesel engine vehicles.
"We're not sure what the number (monetary damages) will be, that will be for the court to decide," Bush said.
While Wyoming's Department of Environmental Quality's Air Quality Division enforces air pollution control laws, the state does not conduct vehicle emissions tests.
About 1,200 diesel vehicles in Wyoming in 2015 were affected by the technology including VW Jettas, Jetta Sportwagens, Golfs, Beetles, Passats, Touaregs, Audi A3s, Audi Q7s, Audi A6 and A7 Quattros, and Porsche Cayenne diesels.
Wyoming is demanding civil penalties up to $32,500 a day per car, plus a plan to fix the affected vehicles.
The problem with Volkswagen's diesels go back a decade when the world's second-largest automaker wanted to rework the traditionally noisy and smoky diesel engines into smooth-running, high technology, fuel efficient, high performance, low-polluting power plants, according to the lawsuit.
But those goals weren't compatible, because the better performance meant higher levels of particulate pollution and higher emissions of nitrogen oxides.
So VW executives and engineers designed six "defeat devices" for various models over a decade. Those devices would activate when connected to pollution-testing systems and show lower emissions readings compared to when the vehicles were on the road.
"Defendants intentionally installed software on the Subject Vehicles that renders certain air pollution control devices and systems required under federal law, inoperable or ineffective during normal driving conditions," according to the lawsuit.
Researchers in West Virginia found the rigged control systems in May 2014, and in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its subsequent findings in September 2015.
The lawsuit is associated with federal multidistrict class-action litigation entitled "Volkswagen 'Clean Diesel' Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation" filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
Two Wyoming residents were named in this lawsuit. They claimed they bought Volkswagen vehicles based on the companies' promises they had excellent fuel mileage, low emissions and high resale values.
But they and others were victims of fraud, according to court records.
On Oct. 25, the court approved a $10 billion settlement by Volkswagen in this fraud case to either buy back or fix affected vehicles, establish a $2.7 billion environmental mitigation fund, and invest $2 billion in states to improve infrastructure, access and education to support zero emission vehicles.
In a separate partial settlement, Volkswagen agreed to pay civil penalties to more than 40 states including Wyoming of about $1,100 per car for violating consumer fraud laws of these states.
But the new Wyoming lawsuit asserts the fraud settlements aren't enough. "The partial settlements do not address or resolve any claims for civil penalties for Defendants' numerous environmental violations."