EPA official says VW diesel scandal deterrent to auto industry

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By David Shepardson | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON The massive fines paid by Volkswagen
AG and criminal indictment of seven executives are a “very strong deterrent” to cheating by other automakers, a
senior career Environmental Protection Agency official said on
Wednesday.

Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of
Transportation and Air Quality, told reporters after remarks to
a meeting of automotive engineers in Washington that the
penalties have had a big impact.

“It gets everybody’s attention,” he said.

Asked if EPA under President Donald Trump could reverse the
Obama administration’s decision to finalize the 2022-2025
vehicle greenhouse gas emissions limits in its final days,
Grundler noted that EPA nominee Scott Pruitt told a Senate panel
earlier this month he would review the decision.

“We will be prepared to brief him and his team on the work
we did,” Grundler said, noting that a new EPA administrator can
revisit a regulation but must follow the same process.

The German automaker earlier this month agreed to plead
guilty and pay $4.3 billion in U.S. civil and criminal fines to
resolve its diesel emissions scandal. In total, VW has now
agreed to spend up to $22 billion in the United States to
address claims from owners, environmental regulators, U.S.
states and dealers.

VW admitted in September 2015 to installing secret software
in hundreds of thousands of U.S. diesel cars to cheat exhaust
emissions tests and make them appear cleaner than they were on
the road, and that as many as 11 million vehicles could have
similar software installed worldwide.

Grundler said aggressive enforcement is key to automakers
complying with emission rules.

“Without a broad expectation of accountability, we know the
inevitable result will be a race to the bottom — to whatever
level is the lack of EPA oversight will allow,” Grundler said in
his remarks.

“We aim with our enforcement to make sure the cost of
non-compliance is always much higher than the cost of complying
with our laws.”

One lesson EPA learned from Volkswagen is “we need to avoid
being too predictable in our compliance oversight,” he said.

EPA launched a new round of real-world compliance testing in
September 2015 after VW, which prompted its findings that Fiat
Chrysler Automobiles NV were illegally using hidden
software to allow excess diesel emissions to go undetected.

Fiat Chrysler has denied wrongdoing.

Grundler said the EPA plans to post publicly more
non-business confidential information on vehicle testing,
including emissions recalls and defect reports to boost
transparency.

He added that EPA wants vehicles to perform the same in the
laboratory as on the road. “We want to discourage manufacturers
from simply designing to the tests,” Grundler said.



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