In Wake of VW Scandal, Blumenthal, Markey, Rush, Pallone Introduce Legislation to Fine Automakers for Violating Emissions Rules

Legislation would help fund clean air programs with fines collected from automakers that violate the Clean Air Act

(Washington, D.C.) –Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Congressman Bobby Rush (IL-01) and Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) today introduced legislation that would deny Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) credits to any auto manufacturer that circumvents emissions control requirements. The Compensating Losses to the Environment from Automobiles with Noxious Undisclosed Pollution (CLEAN-UP) Act would also allow the Department of Transportation to collect additional penalties from automakers that obtain CAFE credits fraudulently. The lawmakers have introduced the bill in the wake of the Volkswagen scandal that saw the automaker violate the Clean Air Act by installing defeat devices in approximately half a million of its U.S. vehicles that allowed them to emit up to 40 times more emissions than those allowed under U.S. law.

“Under this bill, companies that violated the Clean Air Act will have their penalty funds directed toward programs that restore and improve the air they so shamelessly damaged,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Instead of providing CAFE credits to fraudsters, we will be providing critical funding to programs that clean up old school buses and invest in EV charging stations. Volkswagen deliberately and illegally deceived millions of loyal customers—claiming their cars were environmentally friendly while cheating emissions tests and polluting the air we breathe. We must hold Volkswagen accountable for its inexcusable actions, and do everything we can to prevent any other company from doing this in the future. This commonsense legislation will ensure companies cannot reap the rewards of corporate average fuel economy credits as a result of their illegal behavior.”

“It’s a simple principle: polluters should pay for and should never be allowed to profit from the pollution they produce,” said Senator Markey. “The CLEAN-UP Act will ensure that automakers don’t enjoy any CAFE benefits they were awarded as a result of illegal behavior. This legislation will protect Americans from automakers that try to cheat emissions rules while also protecting the air we breathe from pollution. I thank Senator Blumenthal, Congressman Rush and Ranking Member Pallone for their partnership on this legislation and look forward to working with them to hold VW and all automakers accountable for their actions.” 

 “We must hold automakers and any other company accountable for violating environmental laws,” said Rep. Rush. “The priority of this bill is to protect the environment and carry out the Department of Transportation’s CAFE standards. As lawmakers, we cannot permit companies that knowingly endanger the health of American citizens and damage the environment to receive tax credits.”

“The American people deserve to know that there will be serious penalties for corporate polluters who cheat the system, harm our environment, and lie to the public,” said Rep. Pallone. “This pervasive culture of deception in the auto industry in recent years has to end, and the CLEAN-UP Act will help ensure that it does.  Our legislation will rightly hold automakers accountable, while also protecting the air we breathe and giving consumers certainty in the cars they buy.”

A copy of the CLEAN-UP Act can be found HERE.

The legislation also establishes an Air Quality Restoration Fund, modeled after the legislation enacted after the BP oil spill, that would use monies collected from VW or other automakers that violate the law to be made available to programs that restore and improve air quality. Those could include projects that invest in electric vehicle fueling stations, retrofitting school buses to reduce air emissions, purchasing zero-emitting cars for municipal fleets, or providing grants for projects to improve air quality in low-income communities.