By on March 9, 2017

Exhaust pipe of running vehicle, Image: By Ruben de Rijcke (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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]

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14 Comments on “Office of the Inspector General Investigates EPA, Wants to Know if It Can Still be Fooled...”

  • avatar

    Did Walter Peck get to keep his job?

  • avatar

    why bother since Pruitt is about to render this all moot anyway?

  • avatar

    Very good initiative! EPA is highly incompetent and ineffective. It’s time has long past.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, and industry, government, etc. will never pollute again if the EPA were to disappear tomorrow.

      And if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell…

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The EPA has an enormous job, and in the case of automakers it relies on them to self-certify things like MPG ratings. The *fear* of being caught cheating keeps most mfrs in line most of the time, with some notable exceptions lately.

    No one should ever expect the EPA to be an omnipotent, omniscient overseer, nor do we want them to be. And don’t forget that they’re tasked with watching the air, land, and water also – most of it having nothing to do with cars.

    My libertarian/Republican side wants to see the EPA disappear, but my experience tells me that the agency has served an important role in making America’s environment great again. Things were pretty bad before the EPA existed.

    Perhaps the EPA can be made more efficient and cost-effective, but eliminating them would be a huge mistake.

    • 0 avatar

      The EPA (imo) can be more effective if the meat of it is left to a state level while a small administrative “helper” branch is made out of the existing structure. The central federal level would exist to help state EPA agencies deal with other states when a problem crosses state borders. The central would also be important to help if a disaster occurs. As is now we’re arresting elderly people for daming up a small stream on private lands.

      And honesty an administrative branch is completely unnecessary, as itself can be handled by congress.

      • 0 avatar

        opinions based on nothing are worthless.

      • 0 avatar

        The reason we have career professionals responsible for rule-making is because they have subject-area expertise to do these things, while legislators do not. (In addition to not having the expertise, they also don’t have the time.)

        If Congress thinks an agency is going to far (or not far enough) they are always able to override said agency via legislation, so it’s not as if they’ve been stripped of their abilities to make law.

        And having national-level rules make sense, because otherwise you have 51 sets of different laws to comply with. (Whenever a state does something an industry doesn’t like, they complain about complicated state-by-state rules, but when the EPA does the exact same thing, they complain about federal overreach instead, and lobby for the states to (not) regulate.)

        • 0 avatar

          He didn’t say that the EPA wouldn’t have rules… just that it would be smaller. We have the EPA prosecuting people who allegedly caused an issue that was completely contained within one state. This is a violation of the Constitution.

  • avatar
    George B

    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.

  • avatar

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

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