California Nets $1.2 Billion of VW Settlement

          SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — California received a larger slice of the Volkswagen emissions cheating settlement due to its higher air quality standards and role as the first state to uncover the German automaker’s deceit, state officials said Tuesday.
     Of the $14.7 billion nationwide settlement filed in Federal Court on Tuesday, California will receive nearly $1.2 billion to invest in air-quality mitigation programs.
     “This is a landmark deal for Californians,” state Attorney General Kamala Harris said during a press conference in San Francisco. “This deal is not only about consumers but also about the health and welfare of Californians and future generations.”
     About 71,000 Californians purchased diesel Volkswagen vehicles equipped with defeat devices, which gave false readings during tests to hide the fact that the cars spew up to 40 times more pollutants than allowed on the road.
     “Volkswagen cheated on the test, and they got caught,” Harris said. “They were failing California’s high standards every day.”
     The state’s air quality regulator, the California Air Resources Board, first uncovered the fraud after reviewing data from on-the-road emission tests conducted by a West Virginia University researcher and acquired by the International Council on Clean Transportation.
     “There was always a recognition that California would receive a larger share than the other states for uncovering the harm and its unique position with air pollution,” California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols said Tuesday.
     California’s $1.18 billion share of the settlement includes $800 million to support the state’s zero-emissions vehicle program and $380 million to replace old equipment and reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.
     Under the proposed consent decree filed with the court today, Volkswagen must buy back or modify at least 85 percent of affected vehicles within two years. If the automaker fails to accomplish that goal, it must pay California an extra $13 million for each percentage point it comes up short. That money would be used to invest in clean technologies to reduce emissions, according to the state.
     Neither state nor federal regulators have created a process to verify that the modifications Volkswagen makes to affected vehicles will fall within 10 to 20 percent of required air quality standards. However, Nichols said regulators would create a process that ensures Volkswagen won’t be able to cheat regulators a second time.
     “We won’t get 100 percent of what these cars should have been,” Nichols said. “We’ll be getting about 80 percent.”
     An extra $4.7 billion in the nationwide settlement will offset past and future emissions with investments in air-quality improvement programs, Nichols said. The other $10 billion will be used to buy back or modify affected vehicles.
     The landmark deal does not foreclose the possibility that Volkswagen will face criminal charges for misleading American consumers and regulators.
     The U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday that it is working with German authorities to investigate Volkswagen for potential criminal charges.
     When asked if California is pursuing criminal charges against the automaker, Harris said she could not comment on any investigations but that her office “will go where the facts lead us.”
     A hearing to grant preliminary approval of the settlement will be held in San Francisco on July 26.
     Consumers can find more information about the proposed settlement at www.vwcourtsettlement.com.

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