By on February 29, 2016

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Building Plaque, Washington, DC, Image: TexasGOPVote.com/Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/60064824@N03/)

The temperature was already well above average on Friday, September 18 when the Environmental Protection Agency issued Volkswagen a steaming-hot Notice of Violation of the Clean Air Act. The seriousness and accuracy of the allegations are now well known. Emitting up to 40 times the allowable limit of nitrogen oxides is no small infraction, particularly when done with intent. And as a result, heads quickly rolled and resigned at the Volkswagen Group. The company continues to reel from the impact of its malfeasance as new penalties are imposed.

What has been going on at EPA Headquarters? Gina McCarthy was the agency’s Chief Administrator when the scandal broke. She is still in charge. Christopher Grundler has been at the EPA since 1980 and was the Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality (OTAQ) on that warm fall day. He too, remains at his post. Despite calls for resignations from lawmakers, such as Michael Burgess House R-TX, no senior EPA staffers are known to have been dismissed with cause related to the VW scandal.

The lack of individual accountability at the EPA and its failure to catch VW were predictable. Margo Oge, former Director of OTAQ, recently noted the agency’s budget has been cut more than 20 percent over the last five years. These budget cuts have had a deleterious impact across the agency. In-house expertise has been gutted, staffing levels reduced, enforcement degraded, and morale eviscerated. A yellow flag came out after VW’s infraction went public, in the form of Congressional hearings, but agency leadership was allowed to keep circling the course.

Heads may not be rolling at the EPA, but the agency can absolutely be counted upon to act like a large government bureaucracy. Its mission “to protect human health and the environment — air, water, and land” is necessary. But even its 15,000 idealistic employees are not enough to curb the $8 billion regulator’s natural tendencies. Those innate tendencies are the genesis of both the failure to catch VW, and the reason the EPA is taking a swing at the performance aftermarket.

Large bureaucracies do not reward risk-seeking behavior among employees. If you were working at the EPA prior to the VW scandal, were hired post similar scandals at Ford (1997) and the heavy truck manufacturers (1998), and suggested a raft of new emissions testing procedures like those being adopted now, you would have been escorted out of Mr. Grundler’s office. Mr. Grundler would have understood their value, but he has profit and loss responsibility and is trying to balance increasing regulatory demands with a downward tending budget. Moreover, proposed real-world testing procedures were the answer to a question nobody with authority was asking. This does not excuse he, his office, or his agency. But risk avoidance and under-funding contributed to why additional regulatory action, even in the light of countervailing information, was not taken prior to the VW scandal.

That’s right: the EPA knew prior to September 2015 that its emissions testing procedures were incomplete.

Volkswagen Jetta TDI emissions test, Image: University of West Virginia

In 1995, the EPA’s Virginia Testing Laboratory developed an on-car emissions testing device. The ROVER was designed to test emissions compliance on cars in the real world. And it worked. However, the Virginia lab was shuttered in 2001, its technicians laid off, and the ROVER never pressed into systematic use. This does not form the kernel of a conspiracy theory; rather it underlines the predictable outcomes associated with the EPA’s contrasting objectives, namely, the promulgation and enforcement of emissions regulation in conjunction with the need to preserve itself.

Conservative groups, including a swath of Republicans in Congress, have called for the abolition of the EPA altogether. In fact, the agency was under fire long before it blundered into the public embarrassment of failing to catch one of the most significant emissions transgressions in history. If you were the EPA, what do you do? Unsurprisingly, the agency elected to move swiftly to protect itself. For example, in response to questions about deploying on-road testing devices like ROVER, Mr. Grunder has defended the agency saying, “[On-road testing] didn’t continue because it didn’t rise to the top of our priority scheme.” Improving testing procedures, though consistent with the agency’s mission, did not become a priority until political pressure intervened.

The best defense is often a strong offense. The agency is now flexing its regulatory authority in new ways. It’s most recent offensive is aimed at the automotive aftermarket. But this is an administrative action. It is entirely political. The agency seeks to “prohibit conversion of vehicles originally designed for on-road use into racecars.” But the EPA’s proposed rule clarification is about as threatening for enthusiasts as an Avalon at a stoplight.

SEMA Logo

Motor Trend’s Scott Evans accurately reported on the Specialty Equipment Market Association’s over-reaction to the EPA proposal in early February. In his coverage, which was summarily removed from the MT website (but available here), stated, “SEMA… is being paranoid and reactionary, shooting from the hip and making a mountain out of a molehill.” And as Mr. Evans goes on to say, the issue is complex. What is not complex are the facts that a) the rule clarification does not increase non-existent enforcement, and b) one of the worst transgressions the leadership of a federal agency can make is the elimination of private sector jobs by fiat.

Individuals and companies acting in their own self-interest will and do behave contrary to the common good. Humans impact the environment and climate. Thus we need an Environmental Protection Agency to regulate auto emissions and fend off the tragedy of the commons. The recent SEMA vs. EPA debate is healthy and part of our democratic process. However, the EPA’s recent action needs to be seen for what it is. Again, Mr. Evans:

“If the EPA’s intent is to eventually crack down on race car emissions, it would have a major impact on the motorsports we enjoy and participate in as well as the companies we buy performance parts from. The evidence, however, doesn’t yet support that conclusion.”

The EPA’s administrative action is, if menacing at face value, a virtually meaningless salvo. It’s the latest chapter in the embattled agency’s campaign to defend itself by reframing the public narrative. And it has largely succeeded, as evidenced by the media coverage here and elsewhere.

Scott Evans put it best: “The government is not coming for your race car.”

[Images: TexasGOPVote.com/Flickr, University of West Virginia]

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89 Comments on “Mission Inaction: EPA, Volkswagen, and Your Racecar...”


  • avatar
    wmba

    Good article. Told me much I had not known.

  • avatar
    ihbase

    Nice job working in “tragedy of the commons.” Now cue the onslaught of comments claiming Tier IV is a government plot to destroy America and that everything was better before emissions controls.

    -Mike

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Not quite but its time to stop obsessing over it. The profits on the ordinary stuff pays for the hybrid/EV development and selling at loss Greenies dream about. The green tech now exists and continues to be improved, so I say let’s take a chill pill on the statist regulations for a while and see how things shape up.

    • 0 avatar
      LuciferV8

      Scott Evans put it best (In a revised version of his article that re-evaluates the story by actually LOOKING at what the EPA is trying to do):

      “The EPA is not coming for your racecar. The EPA is coming for the aftermarket companies that make parts to turn your street car into a racecar.”

      Seth is being really disingenuous here by only including the original pro-EPA Google cache version of the article, and not the revised EPA-critical article that now stands in its place.

      Am I still reading “The Truth About Cars” here?

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The whole situation is a mess.

    I’d be curious to know what results we the people do get out of 15,000 people and $8 billion annually.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      You make a good point, 28CL,
      The EPA, as well as other federal government agencies, put very little effort into public relations. A similarly sized private company would have a ton of PR, marketing and agency staff to convince media of how much good they are doing.

      Without being told otherwise, Americans tend to take for granted the cleanliness of the air, earth and water.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I wonder how much of it is mission scope creep. Policing all of the land, sea, and air from how many industries has to be daunting and yet if you divide the 15,000 employees by 50 states, its a ratio of 300:1. Three hundred people is a medium size company, per state, yet here are the EPA major cases in 2014 (18):

        http://www.epa.gov/enforcement/2014-major-criminal-cases

        I feel like 300 people per state should be able to uncover say 3-6 cases per year, each given such broad scope.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @28-Cars-Later – that would be assuming those 15,000 are actually field staff. I’m betting for every 30 staff you have one Inspector.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            If this is the case it might be time to lose some staff, or at the very least transition some to doing actual EPA work.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            28-Cars-Later – the clerical aspect of any large organization is massive.
            Drive by a hospital staff parking lot at 0900 AM and then drive by at 0200 AM.

            I do agree that the EPA isn’t very efficient.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Hospitals have huge clerical staffs to deal with all the various payers. Consolidate them to one, and the waste is eliminated.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @VoGo – even in Canada there are more staff working medical records than there are nurses.

        • 0 avatar
          fendertweed

          WIth all due respect, your comment doesn’t reflect the facts. First, many of these programs are delegated to the states, so enforcement is primarily a state responsibility, not federal. The states are notoriously weak at enforcement for the most part. Only in the most serious cases will EPA exercise its authority under delegations to states to step in on enforcement. The real weakness here is that EPA has inadequate resources and cannot revoke the delegations of states doing a lousy job — EPA can’t handle that load. Revoking a delegation also invites a political firestorm.

          Second, EPA Is primarily a science and regulatory agency, not an enforcement agency. The enforcement component is relatively small (only ~10% of the Agency budget) and has (often) a minor influence and is distrusted by the regulatory side of EPA. The entire EPA criminal program has about 2 active field agents per state — not much at all.

          So … one can’t just add up the numbers, divide by number of states, and come up with an expected result. It is a much more complicated situation (this was my profession for nearly 30 years).

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        On the other hand, the EPA wasn’t caught spending tens of millions of dollars sponsoring the NFL, like the army was.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          So you’re saying the US Army was an NFL sponsor and thus would run commercials during games, right? How is this being “caught”?

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            It’s deeper than that. The armed services pays NFL to salute veterans. Millions of dollars for false acts of ‘patriotism’, to convince 17 year olds to enter the service.

            Could you imagine if Medicare paid MLB to honor the poor with special ceremonies? Or if the IRS paid the NBA for special tax collection rites?

            Taxpayers might just think that was a lousy use of their money.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Ah. What if IRS or HHS were having a recruiting drive, wouldn’t it make sense to sponsor events and run commercials?

            If you’re trying to make a larger sociopolitical statement that the US Army “pays” the NFL to promote propaganda as part of the whole bread and circuses meme the nation has devolved into, I partially agree (although armed forces need to recruit in large numbers, so there is some legitimacy in the sponsorship). The reason you generally wouldn’t see propaganda from HHS or IRS in mainstream is because the plebs don’t need to be reminded of their own plight (as poor people) or DC criminals.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            You don’t think it’s weird that the NFL invents phony patriotism events to pretend to honor veterans — for money?

            You don’t think it’s weird that your taxpayer dollars fund this, and that both organizations worked hard to keep it secret?

            OK.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            28-Cars-Later, VoGo – part of the issue is target audience. I’m sure that the IRS would be recruiting a different demographic.

            I could not find education listed.

            “18- to 34-year olds made up 22 percent (15 percent male; 7 percent female) of the NFL’s viewers for games broadcast on Fox and CBS last season”

            “The NFL, though, is more popular with African-Americans than is the NBA. Blacks made up 12.8 percent of the audience for pro football last year compared to 9.2 percent for basketball.”

            http://www.medialifemagazine.com:8080/news2002/sep02/sep09/5_fri/news3friday.html

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            The issue isn’t whether a federal agency should use standard, legal recruiting tactics. I’m fine with that – they should try to get the best staff they can for the $ available.

            What I find distasteful, arrogant and immoral is the exchange of millions of OUR dollars towards the invention of patriotic rituals that only patronize our veterans and fool kids into thinking that the ‘NFL cares’ about those who serve.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’ve seen US Army commercials during NFL (and college) games, I didn’t realize their sponsorship was secret. While it might seem odd to see DoD money flowing this way, the federal gov’t has plenty of stranger ways to p*ss away money:

            http://www.cbsnews.com/news/10-most-outrageous-ways-government-wastes-your-money/

            “fool kids into thinking that the ‘NFL cares’ about those who serve.”

            Hopefully kids learn nobody cares about them at all outside of their family and friends.

            @Lou

            Very interesting statistics.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            28-Cars-Later – to some degree I can see VoGo’s point but like you said, the USA military needs large numbers of people. The demographics speak for themselves. Young and less wealthy males are a huge part of the demographic. You play the patriot and that also targets older males i.e. parents of those younger poor males. They might even encourage their kids to enlist.

        • 0 avatar
          tedward

          Vogo

          The armed forces have the same vendors for marketing available to them as any private company does. Everything from the semi’s you see at air and auto shows to the TV spots and online advertising. That means that they most likely have a civilian ad agency of record who is the actual “client” buying time from the NFL or whoever and convincing their client it’s a good eyeball buy. I wouldn’t be surprised if armed services accounts got some discounts and accommodation but it’s not like Captain America himself is showing up at NBC and asking for airtime. It’s business.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Yes, tedward, it’s business. But this is different from advertising.

            It the hidden payment of millions of dollars for the invention of phony patriotic rituals honoring veterans, for the sole purpose of fooling children into thinking that the military is an honorable profession.

            Not a good use of taxpayer’s money in my book.

      • 0 avatar
        fendertweed

        You forget that EPA is a federal agency with a very limited budget and does not have the resources for massive PR.

        It’s not the Pentagon where you can waste tens of millions of dollars on b.s. PR stunts like NFL half-time show crapola.

        The entire EPA enforcement budget may be less than the DoD spent on that PR crap.

    • 0 avatar
      zerofoo

      It’s actually worse that that.

      The EPA is not the only government agency responsible for protecting the environment. Almost every state has its own ‘DEP” of sorts.

      NJDEP has 1400 employees – also protecting the environment. There is quite a bit of overlap.

      Do we really need both Federal and State agencies protecting the environment? My guess is that we have lots of regulatory redundancies that will never be eliminated.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I was thinking something along the same lines, but you could make the argument if EPA was dissolved and left to the states to handle, at least one state is going to become corrupt and sell out to industry.

        Two things seem to be happening to EPA:

        -EPA scope may be too large.
        -The amount of results do not match the investment given said scope.

        What we really have to decide is what is the right investment amount to yield maximum results? My younger brother worked Loss Prevention for a time. He was told the purpose of Loss Prevention wasn’t retail law enforcement, it was simply to act as a deterrent to reduce shrinkage at a certain cost. Bean counters had worked up a formula where by spending X they could, in their view, minimize shrinkage loss while still accepting a certain percentage would be missed or not worth prosecuting. EPA strikes me in the same vein, but at $8 billion are we spending too much?

        • 0 avatar
          05lgt

          So you’ve read about Texas in the news over the last 2 decades?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I don’t follow.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            I think 05glt is saying that Texas is an example of the kind of state that would gladly race to the bottom, favoring the interests of polluting industrialists over its citizens’ rights to breathable air and potable water.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            If that’s the case I agree, which is why you need an EPA. My arguments are to possibly reevaluate scope and the ROI of funding, not to eliminate it entirely.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            I think it’s a fair request, 28CL,

            The issue is we have a president who is using his executive powers (some claim overstepping them) to advance policy, while the Congress is using its legislative powers to do nothing, resulting in the current situation.

            So you have insufficient funding for the aspired scope, and a sequester regime that prevents thoughtful funding of the highest impact programs.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I think for the current amount of funding and staff, we should be seeing more results. I suspect like many large organizations, internally the EPA’s processes are inefficient and possibly dysfunctional. What I would personally do as president is use some of that overreaching executive authority to restructure the agency to find a greater performance for the current amount of funding.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            OK. I think every candidate who has ever run for president has claimed they would do that. What is different in 2016?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            When has a presidential candidate ever campaigned on reforming EPA?

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            How about these?

            Kasich:
            -Devolve enviro policy-making to State and community. (Apr 1999)

            Paul
            -EPA regulations cost $15 trillion in 2012. (Sep 2012)
            -EPA enforcement nullifies due process and judicial review. (Sep 2012)
            -Land rules made by delusional government interventionists. (Sep 2012)

            Jeb:
            -Repeal EPA restrictions on clean water and clean power. (Nov 2015)
            -Let industries “self-audit”; compensate for “takings”. (Jul 1998)
            -More state autonomy on brownfields & Superfund cleanups. (Aug 2001)

            Rubio:
            -Fix environment with free market, not government mandates. (Feb 2014)

            Trump:
            -Cut the EPA; what they do is a disgrace. (Oct 2015)

            Fiorina:
            -OpEd: Weaken the EPA. (Aug 2010)

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Thanks for the citations, although all of those people want to either scale back requirements or cut/weaken the department. I would restructure it from top to bottom, “cutting” it doesn’t solve any real problems.

        • 0 avatar
          fendertweed

          EPA “scope” is set by statute and regulation … they can only enforce what Congress passes into law and regulations necessary to administer & implement that.

          Any effective analysis would show spending too little, especially EPA criminal enforcement, which is a / the primary deterrent and which has been decimated over the past 10-20 years to the point where its presence is minimal and deterrent value is vastly reduced.

          This was my professional field for 25+ years (environmental enforcement) — there is less reason to fear an EPA enforcement action (civil or criminal) now than for many years past.

          My friends in private law firms are hurting for business because there is so much less fear of environmental enforcement actions, and so many fewer cases being filed (see sequestration & budget cuts). EPA has ~15% fewer employees today than it had several years ago and its budget has been cut ~20% in real dollars.

          And states for the most part have little or no interest in effective enforcement, they see it as a drag on their economies.

          BTW, Obama has shown very little interest in environmental enforcement, and in particular almost no interest in maintaining or strengthening criminal environmental enforcement.

        • 0 avatar
          fendertweed

          You are on the right track re EPA’s organizational structure. This has been tried before and failed.

          EPA was set up in a way designed to fail IMO and the opinion of many who know. It was composed of little pieces of more than 15-20 other existing agencies and set up with a dysfunctional stovepiped organizational structure that still exists.

          It has no organic enabling statute. The structure has been a mess for 46 years. The problem is not the mission or the scope (the statutes EPA is bound by law to enforce).

          There was a try at an organic enabling statute in the 1990s and it went nowhere. A lot of stakeholders including industry like the way EPA is set up (inefficient), notwithstanding know-nothing morons like Trump, Fiorina, and the other disband-EPA idiots who merely reveal their remarkable ignorance with verbal diarrhea like that.

          Every responsible corporate attorney, officer, or advocate I worked with wanted EPA to have an effective presence (up to a point) to prevent the bad actors from cutting corners and undercutting the companies that comply with the law.

          Only idiots bray the “free for all” disband EPA nonsense.

      • 0 avatar
        carlisimo

        You probably do need federal and state agencies. There’s plenty of state land that people would get upset about federal agents policing, and a state could easily ignore, say, pollution entering a river just upstream of the state border.

        Leaving it all to the states would also result in a race to the bottom as states tried to outbid each other for business by lowering their standards until none remained.

        I’ve only had limited experience working with environmental agencies (and they were fine), but I’ve seen tremendous waste elsewhere. Mostly in transportation agencies, they seem to be consistently bad. Thanks to poorly-written or poorly-interpreted watchdog laws, some of them seem to have a 1:1 ratio of people doing work, and people checking their timecards (and those of the private companies the agencies hire as consultants). Basically wasting millions to make sure the agency doesn’t waste millions.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        worse = better

      • 0 avatar
        fendertweed

        Your comment reflects less than complete understanding of how the statutes work (many delegated to states so not necessarily overlap), plus many states have their own regulations that do not mirror federal (may be more stringent) — NJ is one example.

        Short answer to your question is “yes” if you believe in federalism.

        In my experience (over 30 yrs) moreso than redundancies, there are gaps due to inadequate resources at both state and federal levels. Both could be more efficient but both also realize that neither can do the work alone, nor can they even really do it together with inadequate funding, so there’s a division of labor (via delegation where permitted by statutes), etc.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      well, for one the L.A. Basin no longer looks like Beijing does today. And the Cuyahoga and Rouge Rivers don’t catch fire anymore.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    bureaucracy: 1 a : a body of nonelective government officials b : an administrative policy-making group. 2 : government characterized by specialization of functions, adherence to fixed rules, and a hierarchy of authority.

    The part to pay attention to is “adherence to fixed rules, and a hierarchy of authority.”

    We see that in ANY large organization. GM’s ignition scandal comes to mind.

    In my former job I developed new policy and procedures. It was a the biggest PITA on the planet to get anything new approved.

    You change the rules and it confuses people. The “this is the way it has always been done” attitude is a tough wall to break i.e. paradigm shift.

    Another factor is if you change operational policy it can affect the administrative hierarchy.

    Stuff moves “top down” rather quickly (sh!t flows downhill) but as any plumber knows, it doesn’t flow uphill very well.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    I see what you are doing here. Catching VW is re-branded as “a failure to…”, presumably because they weren’t caught before they were caught.

    15,000 employees spread over 50 states, DC, territories and territorial waters is a huge bureaucracy (wouldn’t be enough to fill a typical MLS game). Everything else the EPA does (water, agriculture, industry) is conveniently ignored, leaving us with the impression that all EPA staff was tasked with catching VW full-time, and was unable to do so (until they did).

    As far as racing parts are concerned, everybody and their cousin knows about “off-road use only” performance parts. It’s been a joke forever, and I’m sure the proportion of parts purchased by actual racers is ridiculously small.

    I don’t mind if someone holds these opinions (I’m sure many will comment here), what I do mind is lazy arguing that treats us all like idiots. If you are going to write a serious article about the EPA, do solid research, make solid points, and show sources. This C- level of writing is embarrassing.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “I see what you are doing here. Catching VW is re-branded as “a failure to…”, presumably because they weren’t caught before they were caught.”

      the EPA didn’t catch them, though. it was an independent group.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        I’m not sure “catch” is the correct term. It’s not a cops and robbers thing. The EPA was tipped-of by a WVU research team. That was surely a crucial element (similar conceptually to somebody reporting a crime), but it was the beginning of that particular odyssey, not the end.

        It was decided long ago that the EPA shouldn’t perform the bulk of automotive emissions testing, presumably in the name of efficiency. Arguably, that’s what got them in this jam in the first place. Doesn’t mean that the EPA could have implemented a system that can’t be gamed. Those don’t exist.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      @heavy handle: Agreed.

    • 0 avatar
      NickS

      HH you spoke my mind.

      15000 might sound like a huge workforce and I am usually in favor of lean and mean but here are two counterarguments:
      – administrative agencies do not have only field staff that do actual work. There are layers of bureaucracy in there with a statutory role. Unfortunately you can’t do much with them, as much as I would like. One possible solution is periodic review, reevaluation and restructurings.
      – you need to look at the size of the automotive emissions organization to make any reasoned argument about the EPAs in/effectiveness. I don’t remember how many staff at EPA were assigned to auto emissions. They certainly don’t have enough. It is a huge undertaking to do it all to the level that we all feel they must. I am all for doing more with less but whonianceetain they can do this better in practice, and more so in a govt agency?

      A friend at a federal agency that I loved to criticize recently told me more about his work. The back story is that he was considering going to the private sector and wanted to know more about what it was like. I usually ask why, and of course money would be better, but he also wanted to escape from a job that had very little future in terms of development in his area of expertise,

      The guy is in his mid 30s, graduated from a top 10 school and is way more technical than his boss but he can’t get any equipment to advance the science. He was told that years ago his unit had a staff of 50, but now there are 7 of them. He estimates that with about 10 mil dollars more for equipment and a few new hires they could truple the number of violations or warnibgs they give out. It is a bit like putting high-tech companies under a regulator that still used big old desktops and those heavy monitors. It is that ridiculous. Maybe things are better at the EPA.

      Govts are not very efficient I agree but that is criticism is the low hanging fruit in the era of modern politics. We need political reforms to change the in/effective of govt agencies.

      @jimZ it is not as important who caught vw (and for me the ICCT played a much bigger role). One can use that against the EPA, or they could applaud the EPA for being the only regulatory agency anywhere in the world that exposed VWs violations globally. I am not suggesting bias but the blaming a regulator even if they are doing right is more accepted in the current political culture.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    They’ve altered wording in the rules specifically to address the aftermarket and racing, yet there are many among us who insist on still burying their heads in the sand. Just because they haven’t historically gone after this sector in a big way, doesn’t mean they won’t. If they wanted to, the fist logical step would be clarifying their jurisdiction to do so. Wake up, don’t let them have the power then hope that they never use it.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      danio3834, I would guess that the EPA would use the new wording to go after larger suppliers of aftermarket parts, increasing the price and reducing their availability. Bad news for Jegs and Summit Racing. The EPA won’t have the ability to police every track and mechanic, but they can force racers to weld together and machine individual custom parts instead of buying mass produced parts off the shelf.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      No cat stage 3 tunes with oversized injectors are used on track about what percent of their miles? Maybe they’re lining up to use roadside sniffers. All the SEMA members will do is add a click through contract to shift liability to the consumer more completely than they already do and continue to make parts that get used on road 99.9+% of the time. We should all act like NRA members and buy chips, exhausts, and injectors before they get banned!!!

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        05lgt

        That’s a really interesting point. Would click through do anything to insulate them given the wording of the proposed rule change? That might be the multi billion dollar question.

        • 0 avatar
          05lgt

          it’s a multi billion dollar question I’m completely unqualified to answer though. I’m not sure click through adds much real protection of anything, but someone must feel they do something or I wouldn’t have to agree to dozen page links so much.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I hope the EPA adds some language to the rules for after market parts, namely noise pollution coming from fart can mufflers and obnoxious stereos. The way I see it, any car with a louder exhaust than mine (stock) is an assault on my compromised hearing. Any car with an audio system that overwhelms mine while my windows are up is too loud and needs to be taken out and sledged.
    Also, get off my lawn you darn kids!

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      I would start with motorcycles. It appears that old men are so desperate for attention that they will not buy a Harley unless it is obnoxiously loud.

      Volvos save lives. Fat pipes just annoy everyone around you.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        VoGo – LOL. I agree. Loud pipes save lives is their mantra but they won’t wear a real protective helmet. Bell Helmet’s ad of the ’70’s sums it up, “if you’ve got a ten-dollar head, buy a ten-dollar helmet.”
        When the Japanese released their first cruisers Harley tried to get a trade mark on their sound. The judge said it was a waste of court time since their bikes won’t make that sound when legally muffled.

        No one would give a rats azz about “off-road use only” accessories if the purchasers didn’t pizz everyone off.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I have no problem with the EPA having help catching VW, and I have no problem with VW getting fined a ton for their cheating, but if the EPA can not do its job they either have to get more money, or lessen their scope, I would rather have a smaller EPA that works right than a larger one that does not work right.

  • avatar
    SP

    Use of aftermarket Y-pipe in the on-road testing device: Ironic, or no?

    http://www.summitracing.com/parts/mpe-10768?seid=srese1&gclid=CjwKEAiA9c-2BRC_vaaJ0Ybps30SJABlqxDeoz6RKzcUGsxqLrfoCIFWekn5ZepSjbCG2CqSa8RUPhoCofjw_wcB

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    The waters and air of the United States are much cleaner than before 1970. The EPA played a big part in that accomplishment. Nixon would be proud.
    But today the EPA is well into regulatory overreach, evidenced for example by the Waters of the United States ruling against them. Their regulations, written of course by themselves, would have allowed the EPA to turn any ditch, marsh, any ruts from farm tractor wheels and any temporary standing water into navigable waters of the US. They have no concurrence from the political players in Congress and so they are being punished for that overreach. The punishment involves a cut in their spending money until they come to terms. Of course, their fuster cluck in Colorado at the Gold King Mine with an impounded water release doesn’t help their aim of micromanaging what they can. They didn’t cause the original problem, but managed to make it far worse, and did so in what is unambiguously navigable waters. They need less reach and more grasp.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @chuckrs – there is a big difference between navigable waters and fish bearing streams. Are you mixing up the two? If the EPA is doing that I’d like to see a link. Wetlands do need protection as they are a valuable habitat.
      Environmental oversight in relation to ditches, equipment ruts, temporary standing water etc. all are related to siltation. Silt can be very toxic to aquatic organisms.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        The US constitution doesn’t give the federal government general police power. Federal government authority to regulate water pollution is based on the commerce clause and the concept of pollution on navigable waters between states. State and local governments have the authority to regulate local land use, runoff, etc. that cause local pollution problems.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        Can’t do it justice with a simple link. Search for EPA WOTUS and then separately for the August 2015 district court ruling – a link to the latter is here:

        https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/08/28/north-dakota-district-court-blocks-controversial-waters-of-the-united-states-rule/

        You need to look further than a single link to get a better sense of the arguments pro and con. Those arguments are both procedural (how you determine the scope of EPA’s power) and practical (how you implement whatever you agree on – and that agreement has to include Congress). I agree with George B’s comment below. You can’t just do stuff because you feel like it – rule of law is preferable to whim of man.

        I agree that silt can be toxic to organisms. The people depending on water in the San Juan basin, as polluted under the oversight of the EPA, would also agree. However, when a set of duellies on a farm tractor leaves a rut that has standing water for a short period, I don’t see where EPA needs to be involved. The State DEP, the Ag extension service and the Grange are all better at this. You want to after the egregious stuff, pig farm manure impoundments and the like, you could do so on a very targeted basis. Even there, state level action would be preferable to Federal level action.

    • 0 avatar
      fendertweed

      The CWA “waters of the United States” issue is a lot more nuanced than what you read in the press.

      IMO you mischaracterize the reach of the proposed rule (which certain media outlets and people with a particular bias do all the time).

      Whether or not I agree with one position or another, the summary portrayed in your comment here is not particularly accurate, legally speaking (with full understanding of the CWA, its regulations, etc.).

      Unless and until you can have a conversation at the level of the importance and function of, e.g., vernal pools, prairie potholes, etc., (all legitimate subjects of potential regulation under the CWA), it is not a competent or informed discussion.

      You talk about a “whim” but ignore the considerable science supporting various proposals, and the longstanding rule that the agency with expertise to administer a statute gets deference if it is reasonable (as the science supports here).

  • avatar
    50merc

    It would take a book to adequately critique all the “triggers” and “dog whistles” in Mr. Parks’ statist screed. For now let us note: saying the EPA has “15,000 idealistic employees” is preposterous. It’s a bunch of people who enjoy nice compensation in super-secure and unaccountable government jobs. It’s so great to be in charge in a command economy! Budget “cuts” (details, please–are we talking baseline budgeting?) are a blessing if they stop EPA from its egregious habit of forking over grants to like-minded zealot outfits in order to bring suit, followed by EPA delightedly agreeing to a judicial settlement it could not politically defend. Thank God that Margo Oge is “former”; she was part and parcel of EPA’s fanatical Climate Change crew morally entitled to destroy industries and jobs in the name of the self-defined “commons” (just ask a coal miner). Oh, and inasmuch as EPA failed for half a decade to catch (or should I say ignored) VW’s scheme, why defend the agency? They’d like to turn over emission regulation to the omnipotent CARB anyway. But maybe I’d change my mind if only EPA spent more on public relations. Mainstream media never gives them a break.

    • 0 avatar
      fendertweed

      Cool story, ‘bro.

      Keep up with your fiction writing and some day you may get somewhere.

      You do realize that VW was hoodwinking regulators all over the world and EPA’s efforts to discover it were impeded by ill advised cutbacks in emissions testing due to the very budget cuts that you deny exist. Right? Of course you do ….

      ;-o

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Thus we need an Environmental Protection Agency to regulate auto emissions and fend off the tragedy of the commons.”

    No, we don’t. The EPA’s power lies in its ability to prosecute and fine violators. That threat is what keeps most companies straight.

    Limited EPA resources is why auto mfrs test their own vehicles for MPG ratings, according to the EPA protocol: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/fe_test_schedules.shtml. The EPA couldn’t possibly test every permutation of every vehicle. Consequently, Hyundai and Ford got caught fudging their MPG ratings a few years ago.

    It is similar to hoping your grade school teacher won’t catch you passing notes in class. The presence of 30 teachers would certainly prevent a violation, but the presence of just 1 is still a threat. And as “heavy handle” mentioned above, the EPA is responsible for a lot more than just cars.

    How much oversight do you want to pay for?

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      SCE to AUX – IIRC Hyundai and Ford were exploiting their interpretation of a loophole that allowed extrapolation of data along an entire platform. They tested the platform variant with the best MPG and applied it to the whole line.

      This is interesting. They claim everyone cheats.

      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-09-23/carmaker-cheating-on-emissions-almost-as-old-as-pollution-tests

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        Hyundai supposedly used overly optimistic numbers for mechanical friction and aero.

        5% here, 5% there, eventually you are “best in class.” Until you get caught.

  • avatar
    mike978

    If only CJ was around to add his opinion and enlighten us!

  • avatar
    tedward

    I hate to say this but I’ve seen far better coverage of this story from other outlets. Even motor trend’s revised article was better. I was honestly waiting for something good out of ttac.

    Your conclusion that no one is coming for race cars is obvious and not really part of the serious conversation here. There is no enforcement side capability for this and even less political will. What is happening is the epa is obviously positioning to bring suit against companies that manufacture “off-road only” parts. That is the issue, and the throw away assumption that the epa wouldn’t eliminate jobs by fiat is frankly completely unsupported by any form of argument. Perhaps that would make an interesting article. Perhaps a question or two towards the epa to see if they have a take on this angle?

    Another interesting way to approach this would be to examine under what conditions courts have supported penalties for manufacturers when customers have used their products contrary to indicated purpose. It should be noted that this is the legal play at hand, and that dmca and recent controversy here may have changed the landscape or at least made the conversation more interesting. There will be examples on both sides.

    I also don’t really see how the epa is at fault in any way for the vw scandal. The US has a self reporting test format, funding and intent to change that would have to come from congress. The idea that the epa was negligent bc a machine exists that could have caught this sooner seems a bit of a stretch to me.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Welcome to your first day on the job, Seth! You may get paid, but it won’t be with complements.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        Yeah,that was harsh. I’m just frustrated at this point by everyone half-assing this story. I felt like I was reading several distinct articles half started and then crammed into one piece.

        The blase dismissal of the possible consequences is rubbing me the wrong way as well. The whole cool kids not getting worked up angle is about as constructive as the manic end of the world one.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    “[On-road testing] didn’t continue because it didn’t rise to the top of our priority scheme.”

    Okay, thats great. Its like answering why you commited murder by saying: “I killed my wife because I stabbed her 14 times.” No, thats not *why* you did it, its *how* you did it.

    Saying it didnt “rise to the top” of their priorities is how it failed to happen, not why. If it was already started, then stopped, there is a reason why, beit budget or a failure to realize how it can benifit the process. Typical government double talk.

    I sometimes wonder if there is a required class (to work or speak for a government agency) that teaches one how to use many, many words while saying nothing at all.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N –
      Through the creative manipulation of accent, inflection, intonation, and speech quality manifested by an individual or individuals, usually judged in terms of prevailing standards of acceptability within a specific operational paradigm dictated by the approximate location of those motivated by the corporis politicus which shifts dependant upon the fickle whims of the populace obviously results is a vague summation of what is perceived as valid productivity.

    • 0 avatar
      NickS

      “Didn’t rise to the top of our priority scheme” could very well be code-speak for “some f’er in Congress got PAC money from an automaker to get reelected so they made it clear in our budget what they wanted our priority scheme to be”.

      Really, that’s how it is. You buy the politician, you buy the policy you want.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    Excellent article. The analysis makes me wonder whether perhaps VW has been singled out by EPA; obviously, going after a domestic car maker would have been asking for political trouble for EPA.


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