Department of Ecology News Release - November 16, 2015

Washington state takes enforcement action against Volkswagen

OLYMPIA – Today, the Washington Department of Ecology announced they have issued Volkswagen AG, Audi, and Volkswagen Group of America a formal notice that they violated the Washington Clean Air Act. This is the first step in an enforcement action that could result in sizable penalties.  

“Volkswagen broke the trust of consumers and exposed people to harmful pollution,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “Their actions violated our state’s laws, and we’re taking action.”

Volkswagen put sophisticated defeat software on many of its diesel vehicles to dupe emission tests. The software only turned on the vehicle’s full suite of emissions controls when it detected that the car was being tested.

Washington, 46 other states, and the District of Columbia are investigating and may pursue action against Volkswagen. The multi-state investigation began after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued Volkswagen a notice of violating the federal Clean Air Act on Sept. 18, 2015. EPA alleged that emissions test defeat software had been put on certain vehicle models. Since then, an ongoing investigation has been underway and a second notice of violation was issued by EPA alleging more vehicle models have the defeat software installed.

The Volkswagen diesel vehicles initially identified with the defeat software emit between 10 and 40 times more nitrogen oxides than state and federal emission standards allow. Ecology estimates that in Washington the vehicles emitted from 122 to 529 metric tons of nitrogen oxides above the standard since 2009. The total extra nitrogen oxides emissions are likely higher, as more models are added to the investigation.

Nitrogen oxides is a harmful pollutant that contributes to ground-level ozone and fine particle pollution. Exposure to these pollutants is linked with a range of serious health effects, including increased asthma attacks and contributing to premature death from respiratory-related or cardiovascular disease. Children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing respiratory diseases are particularly vulnerable to these pollutants.

Visit EPA’s website for consumer information and to learn about affected vehicles or Ecology's website to review the official notice of violation.

Contact:

Camille St. Onge, communications, 360-584-6501, @ecologyWA