Office of the Inspector General Investigates EPA, Wants to Know If It Can Still Be Fooled

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
office of the inspector general investigates epa wants to know if it can still be

The Office of the Inspector General is preparing to conduct preliminary research to determine whether the Environmental Protection Agency’s internal controls are effective at detecting and preventing emissions fraud.

While the EPA has proven itself capable of stopping cheaters in the past, the federal oversight group wants to check in on the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Office of Transportation and Air Quality in Washington D.C.

This investigation comes amid the current administration’s proposal of a 25 percent reduction in the EPA’s $8 billion budget, the elimination of almost 3,000 jobs, and the suspension of agency-backed programs and departments — including the environmental justice office. Automakers are also begging President Trump to rollback emissions standards after 2016 ended up being the first year since 2004 that U.S. light vehicles did not exceeded the industry-wide fuel economy targets. Regardless of intent, any appraisal of the EPA’s ability to act effectively will either serve to validate its existence or help rationalize its dismantlement.

The Detroit News reports that the Inspector General’s office has already requested documents associated with the procedures for auditing manufacturer-submitted data, internal practices for testing programs, and partnership agreements with any state or foreign agencies — specifically the California Air Resources Board and Environment Canada. Its next step is to reach out to the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance to assess its role within the agency before visiting the testing facilities.

Michigan’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Lab conducts annual fuel economy testing, ensuring that performance data matches the information submitted by automakers. Much of the investigation’s focus will be on the lab’s certification program and how it ensures that vehicles meet the standards set by the EPA.

It’s worth noting that the agency claimed it would test more vehicles outside of the lab and conduct more random testing on vehicles in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal. That’s down to the EPA having previously certified defeat device-equipped diesels after lab testing. It’s even possible that, without earlier trials conducted by the International Council on Clean Transportation, the U.S. agency might never have noticed that VW shirked American guidelines.

[Image: Ruben de Rijcke ( CC BY-SA 3.0), via Wikimedia Commons]

Join the conversation
2 of 14 comments
  • George B George B on Mar 09, 2017

    The article conflates two separate areas of regulation, emissions of pollutants and fuel efficiency. In both cases the primary way compliance is forced is the threat of really big fines. It's relatively easy to observe fuel efficiency so test errors or outright cheating will be discovered quickly. It's harder to measure the emissions of pollutants, allowing cheating to go on for years. Maybe the EPA could share some part of fine imposed for cheating with the first party to measure and document evidence of cheating. Knowing that outside labs have a financial incentive to look for cheating would make manufacturers be extra careful.

  • Carrera Carrera on Mar 09, 2017

    Sorry, but I had to stop reading after the mention of " environmental justice office". Wow, just wow...

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂