Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge
announced this morning that she's joined the executive committee of a multistate investigation into Volkswagen. The German automaker is facing legal repercussions and plummeting stock value after revelations that it installed software in millions of its diesel vehicles that is designed to evade emissions standards.
“I am disappointed in Volkswagen and the action they took to modify their emissions testing software,” Rutledge said in a press release. “These actions are simply wrong, and I will fight for Arkansans who have been impacted by this manufacturer’s misconduct.”
The investigation, which includes 28 other attorneys general, will look into potential violations of consumer protection laws, the release states.
VW deserves every bit of misery coming its way with this scandal, which was a very, very intentional (and evidently, for years, successful) attempt to game the system on clean air rules. However, when reading Rutledge's statement, it's it's hard not to remember the fact that the AG's first year in office has been marked by dogmatic opposition to any and every attempt to limit air pollution in Arkansas. She's fighting the EPA's Clean Power Plan
(which proposes to scale back carbon emissions to combat climate change) and its rules on regional haze
. These and other air quality rules are disliked by Arkansas's energy companies, which rely on an unusually coal-heavy fleet of power plants.
I'm curious to know what sort of "impact" Rutledge sees on Arkansans as a result of VW's cheating. Is she actually implying that there are legitimate public health and environmental concerns when it comes to air quality?
For background on the Volkswagen scandal, here's an excellent explainer from Vox
that digs into the what, why and how of VW's ruse on diesel emissions:
Diesel engines have long been popular in Europe, and one of their major advantages is fuel economy. Diesel fuel contains more energy per gallon than gasoline, and the diesel engines work more efficiently. Put it together, and the typical diesel car can travel up to 30 percent farther on a gallon of fuel than its gasoline counterpart.
But there's a catch. While diesel cars get better mileage and emit fewer carbon-dioxide emissions, they also emit more nitrogen oxides (NOx), which help form smog, and particulate matter, which can damage lungs. Both types of pollution can have serious health effects.
Since 2009, we now know, Volkswagen had been inserting intricate code in its vehicle software that tracked steering and pedal movements. When those movements suggested that the car was being tested for nitrogen-oxide emissions in a lab, the car automatically turned its pollution controls on. The rest of the time, the pollution controls switched off.