Watchdog looks at whether EPA tests can be fooled

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — A government watchdog at the Environmental Protection Agency plans to do preliminary research to determine whether the agency’s internal controls are effective at detecting and preventing vehicle emissions fraud.

The Office of the Inspector General said it would focus its research on the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor and other divisions in the Office of Transportation and Air Quality within the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation to evaluate the effectiveness of the EPA’s existing internal controls for its on-road vehicle testing program.

The National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Lab conducts fuel economy testing on some vehicles annually to ensure their performance matches the mileage and emissions data automakers submit. The lab operates a certification program to ensure that vehicles meet emissions standards set by the EPA.

The OIG announcement comes months after Volkswagen’s diesel-testing scandal, in which the automaker admitted in 2015 to cheating emissions tests for millions of diesel cars worldwide. In the wake of the scandal, the EPA said it would conduct more spot checks of light-duty cars and trucks.

The Office of the Inspector General also said it would reach out to enforcement officials to determine how they support the emissions testing program.

The office this week requested documents related to the internal-control practices of the emissions testing program, procedures for auditing manufacturer-submitted data, and partnership agreements with state or foreign agencies, such as Environment Canada and the California Air Resources Board.