SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah, April 20, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced Wednesday his office has commenced a civil lawsuit for air quality violations relating to Volkswagen’s use of vehicle emissions testing “defeat devices” in thousands of vehicles.
The plaintiff in the litigation is Salt Lake County, on behalf of the Salt Lake County Health Department, according to a news release from Gill’s office.
The news release says Gill and outside cooperating counsel Colin King, of Dewsnap, King & Olsen, filed the lawsuit in Utah’s Third Judicial District Court.
The release states: “The complaint alleges that Volkswagen’s manufacture or installation of ‘defeat device’ software code in thousands of vehicles sold or operated in Salt Lake County over the last six years has caused or contributed to Salt Lake County’s significant air pollution.
“The ‘defeat device’ allegedly allowed affected vehicles to pass various air quality safeguards and formal testing requirements, including emissions inspections by the Salt Lake County Health Department, when, in fact, the vehicles emitted as much as 40 times more nitrogen oxide and other harmful pollutants than what is permitted by federal, state, and local regulation when the vehicles are driven on a day-to-day basis by ordinary consumers.”
Gill said: “Salt Lake County is consistently rated an ‘F’ by the American Lung Association based on its poor air quality. Just this morning, the ALA issued its 2016 annual report, in which it found that Salt Lake City is the sixth worst city in the country for short-term particle pollution.
“We believe the actions of Volkswagen and its subsidiaries in delivering and selling thousands of vehicles in and around Salt Lake County that were equipped with these ‘defeat devices’ significantly caused or contributed to the County’s air pollution problem and the serious health risks that come with it.”
Salt Lake County Health Department executive director Gary Edwards said the county has a responsibility to protect its residents, including taking steps to reduce the risk of health complications from known pollutants in the air.
“Anyone who lives or works in Salt Lake County during the winter months knows just how dangerous the air can be, especially for children, the elderly, or those with cardiovascular or pulmonary issues,” Edwards said.
“We asked the District Attorney to file this action not only to preserve the integrity of our emissions testing process, but also to protect the most vulnerable members of the county’s population from unnecessary risks of respiratory problems, damage to lung tissue, and even premature death.”
Gill noted that today’s lawsuit builds on recent educational and enforcement efforts by his office.
“The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office has long been committed to providing training and education and, where necessary, will pursue civil or criminal litigation to assert the rights of our citizens,” said Gill.
“Environmental pollution, specifically air pollution, impacts us all collectively and makes no distinction between young or old, rich or poor, healthy or those with compromised health, or Republican or Democrat. It is our collective responsibility to advocate and fight for the air quality we want for our families and community.”
Salt Lake County is represented in the litigation by Gill, Deputy District Attorneys Darcy M. Goddard and Richard D. Bissell, and Colin King and Paul M. Simmons of Dewsnup, King & Olsen.