A loophole in the 1970 Clean Air Act that absolves carmakers from criminal penalties means the Justice Department faces problems with jurisdiction when it comes to charging automakers with breaking pollution laws, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Instead of pursuing a criminal case against Volkswagen, which would be the first-ever against an automaker for shirking emissions standards, prosecutors now are considering alternate legal approaches, such as charging Volkswagen with lying to regulators, the Journal reported.
The Volkswagen emissions scandal however, which has seen the company admitting to the presence of emissions cheating software in around 11 million of its cars, could prompt attempts to close the legal loophole. “The loophole should be closed so there is a specific penalty for auto manufacturers,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told the Journal. “We will be introducing legislation to close the loophole.”
Changing this enforcement aspect of the Clean Air Act could hold automobile executives accountable for their actions in the future: “I don’t see them changing this behavior unless criminal penalties are enacted into law that allow the prosecutor to put the executives in jail,” Joan Claybrook, a former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a longtime advocate of auto safety, told the New York Times.