Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced Friday that the state has received one of its largest ever environmental settlements as he discussed Vermont’s share of a $157 million settlement with Volkswagen.
The 10 states that filed the complaint alleged that the car manufacturer intentionally circumvented the states’ stricter emission standards. Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan explains it was accomplished by installing so-called “defeat device” software in more than 570,000 2- and 3-liter diesel vehicles nationwide. “Between 2008 and 2015 the Volkswagen Auto Group sold and leased diesel automobiles in Vermont that were fitted with illegal defeat devices used to conceal the release of large amounts of harmful pollutants including nitrogen oxide to circumvent air pollution control laws. The releases were beyond Vermont's motor vehicle emissions standards, harmful to our public health. And they were marketed these vehicles as clean and green and sold to Vermont consumers who cared about the environment. They clearly preyed on the environmental heartstrings of Vermonters.”
Vermont had joined New York, Massachusetts and seven other states that adopted California’s emission standards in the lawsuit against Volkswagen. Donovan says Vermont’s share of the settlement is $4.2 million. “A substantial majority of that will go to the General Fund as well as some to ANR. And I should say this: the $4 million is in addition to the $18 million that will be brought in to this state as part of our recovery of a federal action that will go towards an environmental fund later this year.”
Vermont Attorney General Environmental Protection Division Chief Robert McDougall noted this is one of the largest environmental settlements in the state’s history. “We in Vermont had the number two per capita in the number of these vehicles registered. EPA estimates that these vehicles put out up to 40 percent of the legal limit of emissions. We believe that this settlement is the first time that Vermont and other states other than California have secured environmental penalties from an automaker for violation of state environmental emission standards.”
Agency of Natural Resources Commissioner Julie Moore says this settlement gives the state the ability to invest in initiatives to reduce pollution. “Vermont holds Volkswagon accountable for violating our environmental laws and will now have the opportunity to work to invest these funds in the initiatives that drive down emissions, increase efficiency, reduce air pollution and save Vermonters money across the state.”
Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson is excited about the settlement news. “While I am in no way eligible for any part of this settlement, I sold my last VW TDI about five years ago. I owned them for a number of years and I thought I was doing the right thing. I'm one of those people that actually looks at emission standards when I buy a car and VW lied to me about it. And the attorney general made sure that they were held accountable.”
Assistant Attorney General Nick Persampieri explained that the Volkswagen settlement includes additional requirements. “As part of the settlement Volkswagen will have to introduce three additional electric vehicle models over the course of the next several years. And as far as charging infrastructure goes as part of the $18 million that we're getting later this year, the mitigation fund money, 15 percent of that can be spent on light vehicle electric charging stations.”
Under this environmental settlement New York state will receive $32.5 million, Massachusetts $20 million and Connecticut $15 million.
Vermont also has a consumer protection claim pending against Volkswagen.