A federal judge based in San Francisco just approved a $15 billion settlement in the emission-cheating scandal that rocked the German-based car manufacturer Volkswagen. The Associated Press reports that this is the single largest settlement related to an auto-scandal in the history of the United States, and that it clears the way for roughly 475,000 VW and Audi owners to start the buyback process as soon as next week.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer signed the order today, bringing a saga that first came to light in September of 2015 one step closer to resolution. As the LA Times reports, the California Air Resources Board and the EPA determined last year that certain Volkswagen cars had software, called a "defeat device," that allowed the vehicles to detect when an emissions test was being run. When such a test was detected, the device reduced the amount of pollution emitted by the car. However, when a test wasn't being run the vehicles spewed up to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide.

The scandal caused VW's stock to plummet, and the BBC reports that the company's US head was forced to acknowledge how bad things were. "We've totally screwed up," said Michael Horn at the time.

VW dealers also went after the company, with the Times reporting earlier this month on a separate $1.2 billion settlement between the manufacturer and its US dealers.

According to NPR, today's settlement, which both allows car owners to sell vehicles back to Volkswagen and makes them eligible for payments between $5,100 and $10,000, also dictates the company pay nearly $5 billion to the US for environmental remediation.

Judge Breyer called the settlement "fair, adequate, and reasonable."

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