News Article | November 2, 2015
Volkswagen could face civil penalties of more than $20 billion according to a lawsuit filed by the US Justice Department (AFP Photo/Ralf Hirschberger) More Washington (AFP) - The Volkswagen emissions-cheating scandal widened Monday as US regulators said the German automaker also included illegal "defeat devices" on its larger 3.0 liter diesel engines over the past three years. Volkswagen had already admitted including the software, which cheats pollution tests, in smaller 2.0 liter diesels equipped in some 11 million 2009-2015 model year cars worldwide. But the Environmental Protection Agency said it had discovered in its investigation that various six-cylinder 3.0 liter diesel VW Touareg, Porsche Cayenne and Audis from the 2014-2016 model years and distributed in the United States had also been rigged with the software. "We have clear evidence of these additional violations," said Cynthia Giles, an official with the EPA's Enforcement and Compliance Assurance office. "VW has once again failed its obligation to comply with the law that protects clean air for all Americans," she said. In a statement from its headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, the company denied its 3.0 liter engines had defeat devices. "Volkswagen AG wishes to emphasize that no software has been installed in the 3-liter V6 diesel power units to alter emissions characteristics in a forbidden manner," it said. "Volkswagen will cooperate fully with the EPA (to) clarify this matter in its entirety." Separately Porsche, a VW unit and directly caught up in the controversy for the first time, said: "We are surprised to learn this information. Until this notice, all of our information was that the Porsche Cayenne Diesel is fully compliant." The expansion of the scandal spelled further damage to Volkswagen, the world's second-largest automaker and long an emblem of Germany's industrial might. Already one chief executive of the company, Martin Winterkorn, has lost his job, and shares of the giant have lost nearly one-third of their value since the scandal erupted. The new US notice of violation, for the larger-engined cars, could weigh on Winterkorn's replacement, Matthias Mueller, who was elevated from running VW's Porsche subsidiary. At the time of his promotion, Porsche vehicles were not known to have the defeat devices. Moreover, the first notice of violation on September 18, which launched the scandal, made clear that from the EPA alone, the company was facing a potential $18 billion in fines, based on the maximum allowed per vehicle and the half-million US-sold cars covered. There are also a number of owner lawsuits against the company, and it could be hit with fines in other countries and regions as well. The new notice covers about 10,000 mostly luxury cars already sold in the United States, and an unknown number still unsold. But, as with the initial notice, it was possible that the same cars sold elsewhere would be shown to have software defeat devices as well. The software makes the engines run according to US standards when emissions testing is ongoing. "At exactly one second" after the emission test ends, Giles said, the software switches into standard-drive mode in which poisonous nitrogen oxide emissions rise to up to nine times the EPA standard. "The vehicles operate at this higher emitting 'normal' mode when the vehicle detects that it is not undergoing an emissions test," she said. "This design feature is an illegal defeat device," she said. That put Volkswagen in violation of two provisions of the US Clean Air Act, in making and selling cars that have defeat devices and do not meet US emissions standards. The new information came out of joint investigations into actual emissions performance by a range of cars, including those from other makers besides Volkswagen, by the EPA, the California Air Resources Board and Environment Canada. Giles said they had not found the problem on any other makers' vehicles so far. After the initial accusations in September, Volkswagen publicly admitted that its smaller diesels had the defeat devices, and promised full cooperation in probes by not only US but also German and European authorities, and those in other countries. The US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, which has opened a probe into the emissions scandal, said the new allegations meant "it's time for Volkswagen to fully come clean."
News Article | January 4, 2016
The civil complaint against the German automaker, filed on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency in U.S. District Court in Detroit, alleges the company illegally installed software designed to make its "clean diesel" engines pass federal emissions standards while undergoing laboratory testing. The vehicles then switched off those measures in real-world driving conditions, spewing harmful gases at up to 40 times what is allowed under federal environmental standards. "Car manufacturers that fail to properly certify their cars and that defeat emission control systems breach the public trust, endanger public health and disadvantage competitors," John C. Cruden, the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in a statement. "The United States will pursue all appropriate remedies against Volkswagen to redress the violations of our nation's clean air laws alleged in the complaint," he said. The company is in the midst of negotiating a massive mandatory recall with U.S. regulators and potentially faces more than $18 billion in fines for violations of the federal Clean Air Act. The company and its executives could also still face separate criminal charges, while a raft of private class-action lawsuits filed by angry VW owners are pending. Volkswagen Group of America spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said Monday that the company "will continue to cooperate with all government agencies investigating these matters." In past statements, high-ranking VW executives have sought to blame only a small number of software developers in Germany for the suspect computer code designed to trick emissions tests. The company has hired a U.S.-based law firm to conduct an internal investigation into the scheme. The findings of that review have not yet been made public. The company first acknowledged in September that the cheating software was included in its diesel cars and SUVs sold since the 2009 model year, as well as some recent diesel models sold by the VW-owned Audi and Porsche brands. Worldwide, the company says cheating software was included in more than 11 million vehicles. The federal lawsuit alleges that Volkswagen intentionally tampered with the vehicles sold in the U.S. to include what regulators call a "defeat device," a mechanism specifically designed to game emissions tests. Under the law, automakers are required to disclose any such devices to regulators. Because Volkswagen kept its suspect software secret, the lawsuit alleges the company's cars were sold without a valid "certificate of conformity" issued by EPA to regulate new cars manufactured or imported into the country. In addition to producing far more pollution than allowed, experts say the excess nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions from the more than half-million VW vehicles had a human cost. A statistical and computer analysis by the Associated Press estimated the extra pollution caused somewhere between 16 and 94 deaths over the last seven years, with the annual toll increasing as more of the diesels were on the road. "With today's filing, we take an important step to protect public health by seeking to hold Volkswagen accountable for any unlawful air pollution, setting us on a path to resolution," said Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "So far, recall discussions with the company have not produced an acceptable way forward. These discussions will continue in parallel with the federal court action." Justice Department officials said on Monday the case was filed in the Eastern District of Michigan because that is where "significant activity" related to the company's cheating scheme occurred. EPA's primary emissions-testing lab is located in Ann Arbor and Volkswagen also has facilities in the Detroit metro area. However, as the legal case proceeds, the venue is expected to move to Northern California, where hundreds of the class-action cases have been consolidated and state regulators played a key role in uncovering VW's deceptions. Explore further: More VW trouble: 2016 diesels have new suspect software
News Article | December 21, 2016
It was a busy year for the Environmental Protection Agency. While President-Elect Donald Trump was telling thousands of people he wanted to get rid of the government agency altogether, the EPA trounced some of the worst polluters and added stricter pesticide regulations. The biggest pollution-related wins of the year were suits against BP and Volkswagen, resulting in billions of dollars in fines and promised remediation projects. Volkswagen will be on the hook for a $14.7 billion agreement for emissions-reducing projects after it was discovered the company had rigged certain models to cheat emissions tests, according to an EPA report released Monday. "EPA's enforcement work continues to hold violators accountable and deliver investments to reduce pollution in our communities," Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a release. "The American public depends on EPA to enforce the law, protect our communities from pollution and help ensure a level playing field for responsible companies." The EPA also announced Tuesday that it is banning an additional 72 chemicals from being used in pesticides. The substances had previously been listed as safe for pesticide use. Manufacturers who want to use these chemicals in their products have to prove they're safe with scientific studies before the EPA will consider allowing them, the EPA stated in a release. The agency, of course, is far from perfect. A prime example is a recent report by the department that contradicted its earlier claims that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract oil doesn't pose environmental hazards, plus concerns from communities of color that the EPA doesn't punish polluters affecting urban cores harshly enough. But even with its flaws, the EPA has done some groundbreaking work. It's unclear if oversight will continue to such a stringent level under the incoming Trump administration. Trump's choice for EPA director, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, is a climate change denier and has ties to the fossil fuel industry. Donald Trump has been an outspoken opponent of the EPA, saying he wants to dismantle the department because its efforts to protect environmental resources inhibit job creation and urban development. The EPA reached a $20.8 billion settlement with BP to resolve Clean Water Act violations from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig spill that dumped an estimated 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. BP agreed to give $20 billion of the settlement to Gulf Coast cities and municipalities affected by the oil spill. That's bound to make Trump's Big Oil cabinet members cranky. The agency also secured an additional $13.7 billion in investment promises from companies caught violating environmental regulations. The EPA is requiring these companies to properly treat, store and dispose of hazardous waste. Mosaic Fertilizer is one such company the EPA will be expected to keep an eye on this fiscal year after reaching a settlement for their eight facilities across the South. Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.
News Article | November 3, 2015
The Volkswagen Group denies a new report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that drags Porsche and Audi, two of its most profitable brands, into the enormous emissions cheating scandal the German automaker has admitted to in September. The latest report says at least 10,000 vehicles in the United States with a 3-liter diesel engine are also equipped with software that can cheat emissions tests. The number, however, could still go higher if the same software is found in the same models sold in other markets. The new models affected include the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg, the 2015 Porsche Cayenne, and the 2016 models of the Audi A6 Quattro, Audi A7 Quattro, Audi A8 and Audi Q5. Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, says the luxury vehicles caught in the scandalous web are fitted with software that automatically turns on "temperature conditioning mode" when it detects that the vehicle is about to undergo testing. In this mode, the higher temperatures warm up the catalytic converter, allowing the vehicles to pass the stringent emissions tests in the U.S. However, they immediately go back to "normal mode" just one second after testing, says Giles. "We have clear evidence of these additional violations and we thought it was important to put Volkswagen on notice and to inform the public," Giles says. The affected vehicles, which are alleged to emit nine times more nitrogen oxide than prescribed levels in the U.S., could net Volkswagen another $375 million in fines for violating the Clean Air Act, on top of the $18 billion the automaker already faces for admitting rigging emissions test results in 11 million of its vehicles, including several models of the Jetta, Passat, Golf and Beetle. Volkswagen spokesperson Mario Guerreiro, however, says no cheat device has been installed in the newer vehicles, without fully categorically denying the finding. "Volkswagen AG wishes to emphasize that no software has been installed in the 3-liter V6 diesel power units to alter emissions characteristics in a forbidden manner," he says. Nearly half a million Volkswagen vehicles discovered to have rigged emissions tests are found in the U.S., but majority of the affected vehicles are found in Europe and Asia, Volkswagen's biggest markets. Matthias Müller, former CEO of Porsche, has taken over the helm as CEO of Volkswagen as then chief Martin Winterkorn was forced to resign as the fallout over the cheating scandal ensued.
News Article | January 4, 2016
The Obama administration stepped up its legal attack against Volkswagen on Monday, filing a lawsuit that accused the German automaker of violating U.S. air-pollution laws with its scheme to install emissions-cheating software in its diesel engines. The civil complaint filed by Justice Department officials in Detroit seeks unspecified damages stemming from the car company’s use of “defeat devices” on more than 600,000 diesel engines sold in the United States under the Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche brands. “Car manufacturers that fail to properly certify their cars and that defeat emission control systems breach the public trust, endanger public health and disadvantage competitors,” John C. Cruden, the attorney general for the department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in a statement. “The United States will pursue all appropriate remedies against Volkswagen to redress the violations of our nation’s clean air laws alleged in the complaint.” The suit is the latest legal salvo against Volkswagen, which acknowledged in September that some of its light-duty diesel vehicles had been equipped with software that thwarted emissions-control tests. The software allowed the engines to burn more cleanly when the vehicles’ computers detected that an emissions test was underway. The lawsuit alleges that the defeat devices allowed Volkswagen models to emit far higher levels of nitrogen oxide than the law allows, violating the Clean Air Act and resulting in “harmful air pollution” in the United States. The emissions scandal, which prompted the resignation of chief executive Martin Winterkorn last fall, was initially limited to 2.0-liter diesel engines. Subsequent investigations expanded the list of affected vehicles to more than 11 million worldwide, including a number of 3.0-engine models. The Environmental Protection Agency, which filed the initial notice of violation against Volkswagen in September, said the additional action was warranted because the car company still had not responded adequately to fix the problem. “So far, recall discussions with the company have not produced an acceptable way forward,” said EPA assistant administrator Cynthia Giles, of the agency’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance office. “These discussions will continue in parallel with the federal court action.” There was no immediate response to the lawsuit from Volkswagen. Company officials have acknowledged that “misconduct” occurred, and have earmarked more than $7 billion for making repairs to affected automobiles. The lawsuit filed on Monday seeks “injunctive relief” and unspecified civil penalties, according to a Justice Department statement. The Obama administration has stopped short of filing criminal charges against Volkswagen, although U.S. officials say additional legal measures are possible. Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, said it could take many more months to complete the ongoing criminal probe and sort through claims of fraud and economic loss being explored by attorneys and government officials in the United States and Europe. “The civil case shows how seriously the government takes these defeat devices and VW’s underlying behavior,” said Tobias, who holds the university’s Williams Chair in Law. He said the penalties sought would likely be in the billions of dollars, as a “message to VW and any others in the auto industry that may be tempted to engage in similar behavior.” “The bottom line is the U.S. wants to make clear that it will strictly enforce pollution laws and severely punish violators,” he said. The affected vehicles include five Volkswagen models and six Audis made between the 2009 and 2016 model years, as well as Porsche Cayenne diesel models made in the last three model years. EPA officials said all the vehicles were designed to pass U.S. emissions tests, while emitting levels of nitrogen oxide up to 40 times above federal limits during normal driving. Nitrogen oxide has been shown to contribute to asthmatic attacks and respiratory diseases, particularly among children and the elderly, and is a contributor to urban smog. Environmental and public health groups called on the Obama administration on Monday to seek hefty penalties. “Volkswagen endangered the health of people and our planet with deceitful marketing and toxic pollution,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, an environmental nonprofit. “Now, it’s time that Volkswagen focus on building clean electric vehicles that don’t make our families sick and our air dirty. You can’t cheat on tailpipe emissions tests if there are no tailpipes.”
News Article | February 9, 2017
This story was originally published by the Huffington Post and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. The Trump administration is considering closing down the enforcement division of the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a report Wednesday evening from Inside EPA. The new administration is reportedly looking to close the Office of Enforcement & Compliance Assurance, or OECA, and instead let individual program offices (such as the air program, the water program, and others) handle enforcement. The outlet Inside EPA quoted “a source familiar with the plan” who says the Trump administration intends to “disassemble the enforcement office … take it, break it up, and move it back into the program offices.” In a statement emailed to the Huffington Post, the agency’s press office said the “EPA does not have a confirmed administrator and we cannot speculate on future plans for the agency.” Closing the office would almost certainly mean less enforcement work happens at the agency. OECA handles both civil and criminal enforcement of the country’s core environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act. The office is an independent body with about 3,000 employees who “work to advance environmental justice by protecting communities most vulnerable to pollution.” “Dissolving OECA would have a disastrous effect on EPA’s ability to do its job,” said Nicholas Conger, who served as communications director for OECA from July 2013 through March 2016 and later worked in the EPA administrator’s public affairs office. Conger is now the press secretary of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Americans depend on a strong federal enforcement presence, and that depends on having a program that is directly focused on holding polluters accountable and ensuring they fix their problems.” Myron Ebell, a climate change denier who led the Trump administration’s transition at the EPA before returning to the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, noted in an email with HuffPost that most environmental enforcement efforts were largely the responsibility of individual offices before the creation of the OECA in the 1990s. Ebell has previously recommended the agency slash its workforce by two-thirds, from about 15,000 to 5,000 employees, and cut the EPA budget in half. Environmental advocates were quick to point out that Scott Pruitt — the Oklahoma attorney general Trump picked to lead the EPA — made almost the same move back home. Pruitt closed his office’s Environmental Protection Unit not long after he took office in 2011. Pruitt’s online biography describes him as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” and says he “established Oklahoma’s first federalism unit to combat unwarranted regulation and overreach by the federal government.” Republicans voted Pruitt’s nomination out of committee last week over a Democratic boycott; he is expected to go up for a vote in the full Senate, though a date for the vote has not been scheduled. “Scott Pruitt endangered the health and welfare of Oklahomans when he closed his own environmental enforcement unit there, and now it looks like he wants to do the exact same thing at the EPA, imperiling families across America,” Liz Perera, climate policy director at the Sierra Club, said in a statement. Republican-led efforts in Congress have already begun to roll back much of the environmental progress made under the administration of President Barack Obama. Last week, leaders in the House voted to overturn a rule meant to protect waterways from coal mining operations and another that requires energy companies to disclose payments from foreign governments.
News Article | December 19, 2016
GATINEAU, QUEBEC--(Marketwired - Dec. 19, 2016) - Ghislaine Saikaley has been appointed as Commissioner of Official Languages in an interim capacity by the Governor in Council. Mrs. Saikaley is an experienced federal government executive who was previously Assistant Commissioner for the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages (OCOL), Compliance Assurance Branch. Mrs. Saikaley, under the Official Languages Act, can serve a term of up to six months. She will exercise all authority accorded to her position, ensuring normal and continued operations of the Commission's mandate until a new Commissioner is appointed. Mrs. Saikaley's biography can be found on OCOL's website, at www.officiallanguages.gc.ca. The selection process for a permanent Commissioner of Official Languages ends on January 9, 2017. For more information, please visit the Governor in Council Appointments website at www.appointments.gc.ca. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook
Giles C.,Compliance Assurance
Environmental Forum | Year: 2013
The most effective way to achieve compliance with the law is to make it easier to comply than to violate. EPA is using new technologies and lessons learned about what drives compliance to reduce pollution and improve results. Today's problems are pollution not apparent to the naked eye that still poses real threats to health, the large number of smaller sources that collectively make a big difference, and pollution that is not always easily identifiable as what comes from the top of a stack or the end of a pipe. These compliance problems require new tools and new thinking. Environmental compliance today requires a change just as dramatic as the one Bill Ruckelshaus led over 40 years ago. The manufacturer builds the compliance-ready equipment and reports who purchased the approved models. Compliance checks are easy: government need only electronically compare the user's purchase and installation reports with the manufacturer's sales reports. The more resource-intensive interaction is limited to a small number of manufacturers.
News Article | February 15, 2017
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News Article | February 15, 2017
"U.S. EPA's enforcement shop could soon be on the chopping block, a prospect that's spurred an outcry among greens and former agency officials. As the Trump team prepares to follow through on its plans to scale back the size and scope of EPA, one source familiar with the administration's thinking told E&E News that the agency will likely break up the enforcement office, leaving program offices like the air and water branches to crack down on polluters. Another source close to the transition's thinking said that EPA enforcement originally came from the agency's program offices and the idea would be for it to return to them. The source said the potential reorganization was about managing the agency and not about stopping enforcement. But reports that EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance may soon be in the crosshairs for the new administration quickly sparked a backlash. Inside EPA first reported yesterday that the administration is considering shuttering the enforcement office." "What Would Happen To Florida If The EPA Really Did Go Away?" (Tampa Bay Times)