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Category Archives: Environmental Law

Volkswagen Agrees to Record Settlement in Emissions Case

FTC Charges Volkswagen Deceived Consumers with Its “Clean Diesel” Campaign: In two related settlements, one with the United States and the State of California, and one with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), German automaker Volkswagen AG and related entities have agreed to spend up to $14.7 billion to settle allegations of cheating emissions tests and deceiving customers. Volkswagen will offer consumers a buyback and lease termination for nearly 500,000 model year 2009-2015 2.0 liter diesel vehicles sold or leased in the U.S., and spend up to $10.03 billion to compensate consumers under the program. In addition, the companies will spend $4.7 billion to mitigate the pollution from these cars and invest in green vehicle technology. The settlements partially resolve allegations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as the California Attorney General’s Office and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) under the Clean Air Act, California Health and Safety Code, and California’s Unfair Competition Laws, relating to the vehicles’ use of “defeat devices” to cheat emissions tests. The settlements also resolve claims by the FTC that Volkswagen violated the FTC Act through the deceptive and unfair advertising and sale of its “clean diesel” vehicles. The settlements do not resolve pending claims for civil penalties or any claims concerning 3.0 liter diesel vehicles. Nor do they address any potential criminal liability. The affected vehicles include 2009 through 2015 Volkswagen TDI diesel models of Jettas, Passats, Golfs and Beetles as well as the TDI Audi A3….According to the civil complaint against Volkswagen filed by the Justice Department on behalf of EPA on January 4, 2016, Volkswagen allegedly equipped its 2.0 liter diesel vehicles with illegal software that detects when the car is being tested for compliance with EPA or California emissions standards and turns on full emissions controls only during that testing process. During normal driving conditions, the software renders certain emission control systems inoperative, greatly increasing emissions. This is known as a “defeat device.” Use of the defeat device results in cars that meet emissions standards in the laboratory, but emit harmful NOx at levels up to 40 times EPA-compliant levels during normal on-road driving conditions. The Clean Air Act requires manufacturers to certify to EPA that vehicles will meet federal emission standards. Vehicles with defeat devices cannot be certified. The FTC sued Volkswagen in March, charging that the company deceived consumers with the advertising campaign it used to promote its supposedly “clean diesel” VWs and Audis, which falsely claimed that the cars were low-emission, environmentally friendly, met emissions standards and would maintain a high resale value. The settlements use the authorities of both the EPA and the FTC as part of a coordinated plan that gets the high-polluting VW diesels off the road, makes the environment whole, and compensates consumers. The settlements require Volkswagen to offer owners of any affected vehicle the option to have the company buy back the car and to offer lessees a lease cancellation at no cost. Volkswagen may also propose an emissions modification plan to EPA and CARB, and if approved, may also offer owners and lessees the option of having their vehicles modified to substantially reduce emissions in lieu of a buyback. Under the U.S./California settlement, Volkswagen must achieve an overall recall rate of at least 85% of affected 2.0 liter vehicles under these programs or pay additional sums into the mitigation trust fund. The FTC order requires Volkswagen to compensate consumers who elect either of these options. Volkswagen must set aside and could spend up to $10.03 billion to pay consumers in connection with the buy back, lease termination, and emissions modification compensation program….”

Largest protected federal land area designated in Hawaii

Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin: “President Obama will create the largest protected area on the planet by expanding a national marine monument off the coast of his native Hawaii to encompass 582,578 square miles of land and sea. Obama has now used his executive authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to protect more than 548 million acres… Continue Reading

American landfills and waste production – landfills over time, size and location

How Much Trash in Near Your Home?: “The average American tosses 4.4 pounds of trash every single day. It may not seem all that astonishing on the surface, but with 323.7 million people living in the United States, that is roughly 728,000 tons of daily garbage – enough to fill 63,000 garbage trucks. That is… Continue Reading

Report – A Wild Success: A Systematic Review of Bird Recovery Under the Endangered Species Act

“The Endangered Species Act is the world’s strongest law protecting animals and plants on the brink of extinction. In fact, 99 percent of species protected under the Act have avoided extinction. For the Center’s third in-depth report on the Act’s efficacy, A Wild Success: A Systematic Review of Bird Recovery Under the Endangered Species Act… Continue Reading

The Economist – Global Liveability Ranking 2016

The Economist Intelligence Unit – “The latest findings of The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Ranking (reg. req’d) – which provides scores for lifestyle challenges in 140 cities worldwide – show that although Melbourne has retained its crown as the world’s most liveable city, liveability has deteriorated in 29 of the 140 cities (20 per… Continue Reading

New Pilot Study on Measuring OECD Countries’ Starting Positions on Sustainable Development Goals

“On July 14 2016 the OECD presented its Pilot Study on Measuring OECD Countries’ Starting Positions on the SDGs in the margins of the UN High-Level Political Forum on the SDGs in New York.  The Study, Measuring the Distance to the SDGs Targets, piloted on selected OECD countries, leverages on the OECD work on well-being… Continue Reading

Development is impacting the Grand Canyon environment, ecology

National Geographic – Are We Losing the Grand Canyon?On a 650-mile trek, two adventurers faced danger and hardship—and saw how development could spoil an American icon. A proposed tramway, an upcoming titanium mine, hundreds of helicopter tourist trips – in addition to all the facilities to house, feed and transport an ever growing number of… Continue Reading

Global warming visualized as a heat rainbow

Via Scientific American – “According to new data published by NASA, July 2016 was the hottest month our planet has seen since we started recording temperatures 136 years ago. In fact, every month since October 2015 has set a new record compared to previous years. But since July is generally the warmest month of the… Continue Reading

NASA Analysis Finds July 2016 is Warmest on Record

“July 2016 was the warmest July in 136 years of modern record-keeping, according to a monthly analysis of global temperatures by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. Because the seasonal temperature cycle peaks in July, it means July 2016 also was warmer than any other month on record. July… Continue Reading

New on LLRX – Green Files 2016

Via LLRX.com – Green Files 2016 is a comprehensive listing of green resources and sites on the Internet. These focused actionable resources will assist researchers to discover many subject and topic specific sources published and maintained by sectors and groups including: private, public, NGO, and advocacy communities. Continue Reading

Explore ongoing history of human civilization through research and data visualization

“OurWorldInData is an online publication that shows how living conditions around the world are changing. It communicates this empirical knowledge through interactive data visualisations (charts and maps) and by presenting the research findings on global development that explain what drives the changes that we see and what the consequences of these changes are. The publication… Continue Reading

GAO Report – DOE Project Management

DOE Project Management: NNSA Needs to Clarify Requirements for Its Plutonium Analysis Project at Los Alamos, GAO-16-585: Published: Aug 9, 2016. Publicly Released: Aug 9, 2016. “The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) defined requirements for the revised Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) project to provide plutonium analysis equipment at its… Continue Reading