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RELEASE: Penalty Funds from the Volkswagen Pollution Scandal Should Be Used to Cut Pollution and Boost Public Health

Washington D.C. — Michael Horn, the president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, recently testified before a congressional committee about the company’s alleged violation of the Clean Air Act in its use of defeat devices in its clean diesel vehicles. A new column from CAP published today recommends that potential penalties from the Volkswagen pollution scandal be directed to the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, or DERA, program that has contributed to cleaning up tens of thousands of dirty diesel engines and has generated billions of dollars in health benefits. Under DERA, the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, awards pollution-cutting grants to states, tribes, and other entities.

The EPA alleges that, between 2009 and 2015, Volkswagen marketed over 480,000 vehicles in the United States alone as using clean diesel, while—in reality—they had been installed with defeat devices that allowed these vehicles to emit higher than allowed levels of pollution. While Volkswagen has announced that it will recall 8.5 million cars in Europe, it has not yet announced a plan in the United States to buy back the defective cars or to fix them so that they meet emissions standards on the road. The EPA found that Volkswagen and Audi vehicles equipped with defeat devices emit nitrogen oxides 10 times to 40 times higher than the EPA-compliant levels, adversely affecting air quality and public health wherever the cars are driven. According to an Associated Press analysis, these vehicles released enough pollution over the past several years to cause between 16 to 94 deaths.

“The administration must make consumers and public health whole from this scandal. Fortunately, the EPA has the authority to levy substantial penalties and hold corporate misbehavior to account,” said Greg Dotson, Vice President, Energy Policy at CAP and co-author of the column. “By directing billions of dollars in penalty funds to the EPA’s diesel emissions reduction program, the government would ensure pollution reductions that are greater than the extra emissions from these polluting Volkswagen and Audi vehicles. At the same time, the funds would boost local economies throughout the nation by jump-starting projects such as dirty school bus replacements, engine retrofits, and other projects that help in the transition from diesel to electrification.”

Click here to read the column “Protecting Public Health in the Fallout of the Volkswagen Pollution Scandal” by Greg Dotson and Alison Cassady

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at  or 202.481.7141.