Maine will receive more than $5 million from a multi-state court settlement with auto manufacturer Volkswagen over its use of software designed to produce false readings on vehicle emissions tests.

Volkswagen, based in Wolfsburg, Germany, has agreed to pay $157 million to 10 states to settle environmental lawsuits filed last year concerning the company’s use of the software.

In a press release issued Thursday, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills said the deception resulted in tens of thousands of tons of excess pollutants being emitted into the air in Maine and other states.

Mills said the settlement marks the first time Maine and the other nine states – all of which have adopted California’s stringent vehicle emission standards – have secured an environmental settlement from an automobile manufacturer for violations of state emissions laws.

“We will not tolerate the flouting of our state’s environmental laws, the legacy of Senators Ed Muskie and George Mitchell. We will enforce Maine’s environmental standards stringently,” Mills said in a statement. “Our air, water and natural resources and the health of our people are critically important. The action by VW to deliberately violate Maine’s motor vehicle emission standards affected all of us and it was important to bring this action on behalf of the people of Maine.”

The settlement covers 3-liter, six-cylinder diesel engines and is separate from a $603 million agreement reached last year with 44 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico that covered 2-liter engines, according to the Associated Press.

Mills said Maine’s share of the settlement money will go toward funding “environmentally beneficial projects and programs across the state.” Maine is entitled to receive $5,162,281, one of the smaller payouts, with Pennsylvania getting the largest settlement amount, $30,434,055.

Mills was unable to provide more specifics about exactly which environmental projects would benefit, but in Pennsylvania the state’s Department of Environmental Protection will decide how the funds are spent.

Maine’s complaint against Volkswagen alleged the company and its subsidiaries, Audi and Porsche, secretly used unlawful software in vehicles to circumvent state emission laws.

The company sold more than 570,000 cars and sport utility vehicles that exceeded pollution standards in Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Delaware, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Pennsylvania and Washington.

Mills said the $5.1 million represents the largest ever settlement for Clean Air Act violations in Maine. Mills said the settlement should deter other companies from breaking Maine’s environmental laws.

As part of the settlement, Volkswagen has agreed to substantially increase its commitment to the emerging electric car market, Mills said. The settlement agreement requires Volkswagen to at least triple the number of electric car models offered by Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi by 2020.

Maine’s complaint alleges that Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche installed “defeat device” software in its vehicles that activates required emissions controls during a car inspection, but de-activates those controls during normal driving.

The software falsifies inspection results and allows nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions up to 35 times the legal limit, Mills said.

Mills estimates that more than 3,500 vehicles, including Audi’s luxury sedans and high performance Porsche SUVs, were sold in Maine before they were pulled from the market in 2015.

NOx pollution contributes to the formation of harmful ground level ozone (smog) and soot. Exposure to smog and soot is linked to a number of cardiovascular and respiratory health problems.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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