January 01, 2018

The VW Emissions Scandal: Cities as Trust Fund Beneficiaries

John K. Powell

Cars, trucks, and other transportation-related equipment account for approximately half of the air pollutant emissions in the United States. Common air pollutants from these “mobile sources” include carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides (NOx), and other hazardous air pollutants. Automobile manufacturers are subject to the requirements of the federal Clean Air Act (CAA), which regulates mobile source emissions with the overall goal of protecting public health with an adequate margin of safety. In September 2015, the Volkswagen Group (VW) admitted to evading those requirements by engaging in the sophisticated, purposeful, and widespread use of computer algorithms and defeat devices designed to detect when automobile emissions testing was being conducted, alter engine performance, and temporarily lower pollutants below CAA limits.

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