— The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tasked with the job of making sure vehicle emissions are within legal limits, but the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the EPA has reason to believe the agency has skipped out on its job duties.
The OIG is preparing to investigate the EPA to determine if the agency is effective at detecting and preventing vehicle emissions fraud. Based on what has been discovered with Volkswagen cheating the system for years, all indications point to the EPA having no clue what Volkswagen and other automakers were doing concerning emissions violations.
Volkswagen may have been fined by the EPA, but it wasn't the EPA that caught VW in the act of cheating. The only reason the automaker was finally caught after years of fraud is because of researchers at West Virginia University who were working with the International Council on Clean Transportation.
University researchers determined Volkswagen's nitrogen oxide emissions were up to 40 times higher than allowed by law and when the automaker couldn't respond with sane reasons why, the EPA stepped in and started asking questions. If not for researchers based out of West Virginia, it's likely Volkswagen would still be manufacturing and selling illegal vehicles.
Investigators with the Office of Inspector General will place their focus on the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory and other divisions in the Office of Transportation and Air Quality within the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.
The OIG says the public needs to know if the agency responsible for monitoring on-road emissions is doing its job or if changes should be made. In addition, the OIG wants to know how the EPA handles internal controls and testing programs for vehicles on U.S. roads because the current methods don't seem to be working.
Volkswagen was able to get its illegal vehicles certified for sale for years, so the OIG will look into what procedures the EPA uses to audit data submitted by automakers.
Although Volkswagen's emissions cheating is the primary cause of the investigation, additional automakers have been added to the illegal emissions list.
Firstly, Fiat Chrysler stands accused by the EPA of installing and concealing "auxiliary emission control devices" in about 104,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ram 1500 pickup trucks.
Secondly, Mitsubishi admitted it spent the past 25 years cheating fuel economy standards in Japan, and only after this admission did the EPA ask for additional tests on Mitsubishi vehicles.