Harris County will receive over $18 million in a settlement with Volkswagen, Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee announced Monday. The county originally filed a lawsuit with the car manufacturer in 2015 after the company installed technology designed to circumvent emissions monitoring.
When driven on the road, a Volkswagen vehicle would emit up to 40 times the allowable standard in the United States for certain pollutants. Meanwhile, when driven in testing mode so regulators could determine its compliance with federal regulations, the car switched to a mode which showed lower emissions.
In total, the company has paid an estimated $30 billion in settlements and pollution mitigation costs since the scandal, including $20 billion in the United States.
"Harris County was the first governmental entity in the state of Texas to sure Volkswagen for this back in 2015, and we're extremely proud of that," said Menefee. "We've since worked hand-in-hand with the Texas Attorney General's office, in the driver's seat, as it and other counties across the state later filed suits."
In May, a total settlement of $85 million was reached, with Harris County receiving a share of over $18 million.
Both Harris and Fort Bend counties filed lawsuits ahead of the state of Texas and denied Attorney General Paxton's request that they drop their respective suits.
"Lawyers always want to be in the driver's seat," said Menefee. "I think the Attorney General wanted one strategy that coordinated across the state and led by his office, but we have fantastic lawyers here in Harris County that were able to do that job."
County Commissioner Rodney Ellis said, by maintaining control of the lawsuit, Harris County secured a larger portion of the settlement than it would have if the state took the reins.
"Would Harris County get nearly $20 million if the state had taken control of the lawsuit? No," said Ellis. "More money came into Harris County that we control because this county attorney's office kept control of that lawsuit."
The money will go into Harris County's general fund until the County Commissioners Court decides how to allocate it.