U.S. EPA Toughens Emissions Oversight After VW Cheating

(Bloomberg) — Regulators will add more spot-checks to cars

already on the road as part of a toughening of U.S.

environmental oversight following Volkswagen AG’s admission that

it fitted as many as 11 million diesel cars worldwide with

software that rigged pollution tests.

“We are upping our game,” said Christopher Grundler,

director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of

Transportation and Air Quality.

The U.S. Justice Department is conducting a criminal

investigation of Volkswagen, and the company said it’s

cooperating with regulators. The admission has marred the

reputation of the world’s largest automaker and sent its shares

to the lowest levels in years. Volkswagen’s board is expected to

name a successor Friday to former Chief Executive Officer Martin

Winterkorn, who resigned this week.

The EPA is sending a letter Friday to automakers informing

them that emissions monitoring is being enhanced. Grundler

wouldn’t say what changes the agency will make to audit the lab

results carmakers submit to regulators.

“They don’t need to know,” Grundler, speaking to reporters

on a conference call, said of the automakers. “They only need to

know that we will be keeping their cars a little bit longer, and

we’re going to be driving them more.”

Grundler earlier told the Associated Press that the agency

may add additional on-road testing. It already has on-road

testing ability but it’s been used in recent years to check

carmaker gas mileage estimates and diesel trucks, two situations

in which they had uncovered emissions cheating in the past.

Spot Checks

The agency will increase borrowing cars from vehicle owners

for surprise spot checks, making sure the results align with

data automakers submit on their EPA applications, Grundler said.

The agency can also take cars directly off assembly lines for

testing, he said.

The EPA’s ultimate power is to deny car companies a

certificate required to sell their vehicles, Grundler said.

Neither the EPA nor the California Air Resources Board — which

enforces separate state pollution rules — will allow cars on

the market if there’s any doubt they meet the legal

requirements, he said.

“If EPA believes that vehicles are not compliant, we do not

certify them, and they cannot be sold,” Grundler said.

The scandal now engulfing VW, which has admitted to

outfitting cars with software designed to give false readings on

emission tests, is unique both for the number of vehicles

involved, and the digital complexity. But it’s not the first

emissions-cheating case, even for the Wolfsburg, Germany-based

company.

Past Cheating

In 1973, the EPA accused the automaker of installing defeat

devices in cars it wanted to sell in the 1974 model year. VW

then admitted it had sold 1973 model year cars with the devices,

which consisted of temperature-sensing switches that cut out

pollution controls at low temperatures.

General Motors Co. agreed in 1995 to pay $45 million after

being accused of circumventing pollution controls on 470,000

Cadillac luxury sedans. The cars’ 4.9-liter V-8 engines were

tuned to turn off pollution controls when the air conditioning

ran, the EPA said at the time.

The current VW case resembles a 1998 case involving seven

manufacturers of heavy-duty truck engines: Caterpillar Inc.,

Cummins Inc., Detroit Diesel Corp., Mack Trucks Inc., Navistar

International Transportation Corp., Renault Vehicules

Industriels, S.A. and Volvo Truck Corp.

The companies agreed to spend more than $1 billion,

including $83.4 million in penalties, to settle the case — the

biggest civil fine to that point for violating an environmental

law.

To contact the reporter on this story:

Jeff Plungis in Washington at

jplungis@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:

Jon Morgan at

jmorgan97@bloomberg.net

Elizabeth Wasserman

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