Volkswagen is agreeing to pay the state another $69 million to settle claims it violated New Jersey’s clean-air laws by installing software on diesel vehicles that deactivated pollution controls during emissions testing.
In a settlement announced by Gov. Chris Christie, Volkswagen Group of America agreed to pay the money to the state after it brought a stand-alone lawsuit against the automaker.
New Jersey already is scheduled to receive $72 million from the car manufacturer from a federal lawsuit stemming from the cheating scandal involving millions of vehicles. Volkswagen agreed to settle that case by making $2.7 billion available to states to reduce pollution.
“Aggressive pursuit of our own litigation against Volkswagen in Superior Court was the proper course for the state, and is now paying dividends on behalf of New Jersey citizens,’’ Christie said in a statement issued by his press office. “The company put market share ahead of integrity and profit ahead of lawful compliance, and we held them accountable.’’
Under the agreement, the state claimed it will receive roughly one-and-a-half times more dollars than the amount paid to any other state that settled with VW over its deceptive practices.
During the case, New Jersey argued VW vehicles spewed unlawful amounts of nitrogen oxides, an air pollutant that causes smog or ground-level ozone and is linked to various respiratory ailments.
It is unclear how the money will be spent. Neither the state Department of Environmental Protection nor the attorney general’s office could answer that question. The governor’s office also declined to answer the question.
The prior settlement with the federal government dictates that the funds should be spent on reducing air pollution from the transportation sector, with up to 15 percent of the money going to help build charging stations for electric vehicles.
“It’s a lot of money to help jumpstart electric vehicles,’’ said Jeff Tittel, referring to the two Volkswagen settlements.
New Jersey is lagging behind other states in building the infrastructure necessary to convince motorists to buy electric vehicles, according to various studies. The transportation sector is the biggest source of greenhouse-gas emissions in New Jersey, as well as the rest of the Northeast.