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Dieselgate Class-Action Suit Decision Delay Attempts Likely To Fail

The final steps of the Dieselgate class-action suit settlement are moving steadily ahead, despite apparent attempts by some to delay or derail the conclusion.

With the date of the final approval hearing on the Dieselgate class-action settlement rapidly approaching, it looks like last-minute attempts to derail or reopen things won’t succeed. Despite expressed "concerns" from a California congresswoman and four state legislators, the class-action settlement is moving ahead smoothly.

Delays Unlikely In Class-Action Plans

If their attempts were to have had any effect, then the $10 billion buyout and payment plan to which most of the affected VW diesel owners have already signed off would have been delayed further. However, since the courts usually are reluctant to reopen already-negotiated settlements, the last-minute attempts to reopen and change things won't succeed.

Indeed, the concerns being raised seem more political than practical. The last-minute would-be intervenors (people who want to have a say) – though no one has asked them to – believe that the automaker would have too much influence on the how the $2 billion earmarked for electric vehicle infrastructure technology is spent.

As a piece of the three-part Dieselgate class-action settlement, Volkswagen has agreed to spend about $2 billion in establishing an electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The automaker is paying about $1.2 billion across the country and is laying out another $800 million in California. The payment is part of $5 billion in total the automaker agreed to pay to mitigate the issues relating to its emissions cheating.

Letter Seeks To Open Class-Action Settlement

Rep. Anna Eschoo, D-Calif., in a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa McCarthy, said she was very concerned by a provision that lets Volkswagen make “possible investments in its own proprietary technology and subsidiaries.” The lawmaker’s letter comes as U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer is set to preside at an Oct. 18 hearing where he will decide whether the $15.3 billion settlement plan will receive final approval or whether he will require changes and renegotiation.

EPA has declined comment on the issue, while VW was not immediately available for comment. It has previously urged the court to okay the package.

According to Automotive News, Rep. Eshoo's issues mirror those raised by electric car-charging station companies two months ago. They believe their technology will be pushed aside for VW’s technology. Also, four California state legislator have urged the Justice Department to ensure that the oversight and administration of VW funds is independent so that “multiple vendors with cutting-edge technology are able to enter the market.”

Meanwhile, the Justice Department received nearly 1,200 comments on the settlement from interested citizens, businesses, institutions, associations, and state and local government during the comment period on the settlement. Despite the enormous number of comments and concerns, Justice urged that the court approve the settlement with only minor tweaking. It is unlikely that commenters will succeed in their attempts to overturn things or make significant changes because the court usually gives government agencies wide latitude to negotiate settlements.

VW Class-Action Comments

More than half of the comments were filed on behalf of IdleAir, a company that provides truck-stop electrification services to long-haul truckers. The comments urged that the VW program be allowed to fund such projects.

The class-action settlement hearing is the final step in settling the first round of court actions in the Dieselgate scandal.