OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington state is taking enforcement action against Volkswagen, saying the company violated the state's Clean Air Act.

The Department of Ecology announced Monday that it issued a formal notice to the companies, the first step in a process that could result in large penalties.

Volkswagen is facing fines and expensive recalls after U.S. authorities found it had equipped diesel cars with software that turned off emissions controls and pepped up performance when the vehicle was not being tested. Up to 11 million vehicles worldwide are affected.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the cars emit 10 to 40 times the allowable amount of harmful nitrogen oxide while being driven.

Ecology estimates that in Washington the vehicles emitted from 122 to 529 metric tons of nitrogen oxides above the standard since 2009.

A message left with VW seeking comment was not immediately returned.

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