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Environmental compliance may trigger civil or criminal penalties

Environmental compliance can be costly. Take the recent example of Volkswagen and its related entities. The car maker has announced several initiatives as part of a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the State of California.

The lawsuit alleged that certain of the automaker’s 3.0 liter diesel models violated both the Clean Air Act and applicable California law because they were installed with devices designed to fool emissions tests. To remedy that violation, the car maker will recall approximately 83,000 vehicles made between 2009 and 2016. It will also buy back certain vehicles made before 2009. Finally, Volkswagen will also pay $225 million to fund projects dedicated to reducing nitrogen oxide pollution, or NOx.

Notably, Volkswagen might still be facing civil and/or criminal liabilities. The settlement agreement only pertains to the environmental compliance aspects of the state and federal laws. This means that the car maker may continue to need experienced attorneys advocating on its behalf.

Our Southern California law firm has helped many clients, both local and national, resolve regulatory or compliance issues involving the EPA, as well as state agencies with enforcement authority, such as the California Environmental Protection Agency. Where possible, we strive to identify and allocate environmental risk before a violation has occurred, such as placing compliance responsibilities on the other party in a real estate transaction. 

A proactive approach may even be possible after an agency investigation or enforcement action has begun. If remediation is required, our lawyers will work to negotiate a manageable scale and pace, with an eye to protecting our clients’ business objectives and reputation in their industry.

Source: National Law Review, “Volkswagen to Recall 83,000 3.0 Liter Diesel Vehicles and Fund Mitigation Projects to Settle Allegations of Cheating Emissions Tests on Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche Vehicles,” Jan. 2, 2017

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