The Chicago Tribune
Illinois forcing Volkswagen to clean up its act
Nov. 14, 2016
By Robert Reed
Even those who never owned a Volkswagen car could benefit from the beleaguered company’s desperate need to make “dieselgate,” a moniker for its massive auto emissions scandal, fade in the rearview mirror.
But that’s not going to happen until the German automaker makes peace with Illinois and a bunch of other ticked-off states suing the company for allegedly fouling the environment.
Some may see these lawsuits as blatantly trying to squeeze extra cash from a staggering Volkswagen, which admitted using software designed to cheat on emissions testing. I’d disagree, mainly because no automaker, or company for that matter, should go unchallenged for allegedly violating a bedrock environmental law in such an admittedly blatant manner. It’s not fair to the public or to other businesses that must follow the rules.
This week, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan smacked Volkswagen with a lawsuit claiming the automaker violated the state’s pollution protection rules. Madigan’s office wants the company to pay some form of damages, as do 11 other states also suing Volkswagen on similar grounds.
The legal fallout is linked to the company’s admission last year that about 500,000 of its VWs and Audis with 2-liter, four-cylinder diesel engines were programmed to cheat on government emissions tests. Since then, Volkswagen’s focus has been on making amends with its disgusted car buyers, settling with irate consumer fraud regulators and quelling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Now the saga is entering a new chapter: Volkswagen is dealing with states saying the very air their communities breathe was compromised by the emissions-rigging scheme.
“Not only were consumers harmed by buying cars that were less than advertised; the public as a whole has suffered because there’s more pollution,” says Howard Learner , executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, a Chicago-based watchdog and advocacy group.