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Pollution Scandal

Friday, October 26, 2018By Richard Alexander

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed to detect and prevent Volkswagen’s fraudulent activities for many years. Now the Office of Inspector General (OIG) has initiated an audit to understand how such a lapse could have occurred. For years, Volkswagen installed defeat devices into its vehicles which activated controls during testing periods but dismantled these devices while the owner was driving the car. The device is designed to produce lower emissions during testing. However, during regular driving, the equipment was deactivated and the car produced emissions exceeding legal limits. The OIG’s audit concluded that better controls are necessary.

EPA Missed Fraud for Years

According to the audit, the EPA did not discover Volkswagen’s emissions scandal even though it persisted for at least seven years. During this time, approximately 600,000 vehicles passed EPA emissions tests while emitting exceedingly high doses of nitrogen oxide into the environment. The fraud was revealed only after researchers at West Virginia University noted discrepancies between the EPA’s findings and their observations in the lab. The EPA concluded that Volkswagen had installed these cheating devices to thwart EPA standards for emission output.

EPA Defends its Lack of Knowledge of Cheating Scandal

The EPA stated that it did not know about Volkswagen’s scandal for a number of reasons. First, lightweight diesel vehicles are relatively uncommon and do not warrant much oversight by the EPA. Second, the EPA maintains that it lacked the internal procedures to detect the cheating devices implemented by Volkswagen. Third, Volkswagen denied any wrongful activity and the EPA believed that the automaker was not involved in illegal conduct related to regulatory fraud.

New Controls Are Implemented

The EPA maintains that new controls have been implemented to detect fraudulent emissions practices by other automakers. In addition, different test formulations are being used to detect emission levels while a car is being driven. It appears that these new tests have been working to some extent, as the OIG has since identified other automakers involved in similar scandals. The OIG noted that certain areas of compliance still require additional improvement. Therefore, it issued several additional recommendations to enhance testing procedures to help ensure that other automakers do not engage in fraudulent emissions testing.

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