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Welch Proposes Criminal Penalties for Automakers That Deceive Customers and Regulators

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) has introduced legislation that would establish criminal penalties under the Clean Air Act for automakers who install "defeat devices" in vehicles to bypass emissions regulations.

"Volkswagen's decision to manipulate its vehicles to pass emissions tests was a sham of massive proportions that shattered the trust of regulators, customers and the public. Criminal penalties for corporate deception on this scale should make auto executives think twice before intentionally violating environmental laws," said Rep. Welch.

Welch has been a champion for the 3,000 Vermont VW consumers who bought rigged "clean diesel" cars that in fact did not meet pollution standards. In October, Welch grilled a VW executive at a congressional oversight hearing with questions posed by Vermonters. Welch's questioning can be watched here.

The Clean Air and Vehicle Technology Accountability Act (H.R. 5024) would amend Title II of the Clean Air Act to authorize criminal charges against automakers who knowingly bypass, defeat, or render inoperable air pollution control monitors in motor vehicles. Current estimates suggest that 11 million VW vehicles worldwide were built with some version of emission evasion software installed, allowing for vehicles to emit up to 40 times more emissions than the limit under the law. Nearly 600,000 of these vehicles sold across the U.S.

Welch introduced the legislation with Reps. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), and Ted Lieu (D-CA).

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