Environmental Law

DOJ files multibillion-dollar suit against Volkswagen over environmental violations

Volkswagen admitted that it had cheated on its emissions tests. Now the automotive giants will have to face the wrath of the federal government.

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit (PDF) in Eastern Michigan federal district court accusing VW of violating the Clean Air Act. The suit, which was brought at the request of the Environmental Protection Agency, seeks to hold VW accountable for nearly 600,000 diesel engines, which were equipped with software allowing it to pass EPA emissions tests. Once VW passed the tests, the software switched off, allowing the vehicles to produce higher-than-acceptable levels of carbon emissions on the road.

“The United States will pursue all appropriate remedies against Volkswagen to redress the violations of our nation’s clean air laws,” said Assistant Attorney General John Cruden, head of the DOJ’s environment and natural resources division, in a statement. While the complaint did not request a specific amount of damages, the federal government said it would pursue high penalties and fines per engine and per day of violation, a move that could potentially cost VW billions of dollars.

According to Reuters, the case will be transferred to Northern California, which is handling a massive purported class action against VW over the emissions control devices. CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned in September after the news broke, and the Wall Street Journal reported last month that nine other employees were suspended. Reuters reported that the DOJ did not rule out any criminal charges against VW.

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