Last year’s $1 billion settlement between the Environmental Protection Agency and truck engine manufacturers did not get EPA off the hook.
The environmental agency has been tagged by the House Commerce Committee as “grossly negligent” in its regulation of diesel engines. By failing to fix its flawed emissions test protocol – even when it had credible information that the protocol was inadequate – EPA may have contributed to as many as 5,600 premature deaths and up to $31 billion in health-related costs, according to a committee report.
“The scope and magnitude of this regulatory debacle may well be unprecedented,” the report says.
What’s not unprecedented, sources suggest, is the targeting of an administration’s performance during a presidential election year.
The report was prepared at the request of Commerce Committee Chairman Thomas J. Bliley, Jr., R-VA, who is reported as saying his intention was to expose “the emptiness” of the Clinton administration’s pro-environment rhetoric.
The report details the fight between EPA and the major engine builders over the breakdown in the emissions testing process. That fight culminated last year in a victory for EPA as the courts approved civil fines that amounted to the largest Clean Air Act settlement in history.
The report does not go into questions that remain unanswered: whether the engine makers illegally tried to avoid emissions rules, or whether electronic engine controls were “defeat devices” used to get around the rules.
EPA and the Justice Department have charged that the engine manufacturers behaved illegally, but the manufacturers have denied any wrongdoing.
According to Bliley’s report, neither side would have a clear-cut victory if it came to a trial.
But it is clear, the report says, that EPA failed to enforce federal emission requirements.
One press account had EPA refuting the report, but at press time the agency had not answered a direct request for comment.
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