January 9, 2017

Maine AG sues VW, Audi and Porsche over 'defeat devices'

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills is suing Volkswagen and its Audi and Porsche affiliates over the sale of diesel automobiles in Maine fitted with "defeat devices" that concealed illegal amounts of harmful emissions.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified civil penalties from the automakers, which last year agreed to pay almost $15 billion to settle claims in a class-action lawsuit stemming from their diesel emissions cheating.

Mills' court complaint, which was announced in a release on Friday, alleges that roughly 3,500 diesel cars and SUVs outfitted with the devices were sold in Maine, resulting in emissions of nitrogen oxides 40 times higher than allowable limits. Nitrogen oxides build up ozone in the atmosphere and are a leading contributor to respiratory illnesses and diseases.

The state's court complaint follows the car companies' partial settlement of the class-action lawsuit that was announced last June and approved by a federal judge in October.

In its release announcing the court filing in Kennebec Superior Court, the AG's Office noted the earlier settlements involved establishing a fund to buy back or fix up to 11 million vehicles with the devices that had been sold worldwide.

"Those earlier settlements did not resolve any of the claims for civil penalties that Maine and other states, as well as the [federal] Environmental Protection Agency, may bring for the companies flagrant violations of state and federal environmental laws and regulations," the AG's Office said in its statement.

The complaint alleges Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche "made a knowing decision to violate the laws of Maine and other states not just once, but repeatedly, with different types of defeat devices that cheated on emissions tests." It also states the deceptions began with model year 2009, involved more than a dozen models including "flagship Audi luxury sedans and high-performance Porsche SUVs," affecting about 3,500 vehicles sold in Maine.

Other developments

On Friday, the New York Times reported that Volkswagen is close to making an additional $2 billion settlement to resolve a federal criminal investigation into its emissions cheating scheme.

The newspaper said the settlement could be announced as early as this week, noting that the German automaker "is eager to put the Justice Department investigation behind it before President-elect Donald J. Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20."


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