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Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson has sued Volkswagen for civil penalties as a result of the company's manipulation of air pollution tests involving its vehicles.
"This was a brazen scheme to deceive regulators and consumers to believe that these were clean, low emission vehicles, when they actually emitted nitrogen oxide at up to 35 times the legal limit," Swanson said in a statement. "This deceived consumers and was unfair to competitors that followed the rules."
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is also a party to the suit, filed Thursday.
Swanson said Volkswagen sold or leased more than 11,500 tampered vehicles in Minnesota.
The suit involves revelations that Volkswagen installed computer software on vehicles that caused emission control systems to work when they were being tested for pollution output, but cut the emission controls off when vehicles were being driven under normal circumstances.
The state has already settled a consumer fraud claim against Volkswagen for $11.5 million.
Minnesota AG Lori Swanson called Volkswagen's actions "a brazen scheme to deceive."
Minnesota is also eligible to receive an additional $43 million under a federally negotiated settlement of certain environmental claims, Swanson said.
Minnesota law prohibits installing devices that alter a vehicle's emissions control system.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) can cause respiratory problems, the Environmental Protection Agency said. "Exposures over short periods can aggravate respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, leading to respiratory symptoms [such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing], hospital admissions and visits to emergency rooms," the agency said.
The brands and models affected are diesel versions of the following: