New Player in Dieselgate

Similar violation but new player—Fiat Chrysler, accused by U.S. EPA of willfully violating emissions standards for certain models of diesel Jeeps and Ram pickups. The charge comes a day after DOJ settled civil and criminal suits with Volkswagen.

2 minute read

January 13, 2017, 11:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid


Tailpipe

Fabianodp / Shutterstock

Something good has come out of the Volkswagen emissions scandal besides the $5 billion that VW agreed to pay states to mitigate the thousands of tons of harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) their vehicles emitted so as to improve their performance.

"The California Air Resources Board (CARB) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made a commitment to enhanced testing as the Volkswagen case developed, and this is a result of that collaboration," stated CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols.

Unlike the VW case, where a small team of West Virginia University engineers and technicians "contracted by the International Council on Clean Transportation to perform independent, on-road emissions testing on light-duty diesel vehicles" made the discovery, it was a vigilant EPA working with CARB that detected the Fiat Chrysler violation.

"The 104,000 affected vehicles include the light-duty model year 2014, 2015 and 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3-liter diesel engines sold in the United States," writes Hiroko Tabuchi, business reporter for The New York Times.

Not quite the same as VW cheating

Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator of EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, "stopped short of describing the software as a so-called defeat device of the sort used by Volkswagen to cheat on diesel emissions tests," reports Tabuchi. "But she said there was no doubt that Fiat Chrysler’s software 'is contributing to illegal pollution.'"

John German, senior fellow at the International Council on Clean Transportation, said the E.P.A.’s case against Fiat Chrysler was not as clear-cut. Nonetheless, he said he expected Fiat Chrysler to have difficulty defending itself against the government’s accusations.

If Fiat Chrysler is found to have violated the Clean Act Act, as the E.P.A. says, it faces potential penalties of up to $44,500 for each affected car, or more than $4.5 billion in total.

Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), denied "that the company had intentionally broken the law."

The FCA violation, announced on Jan. 12, comes a day after the U.S. Department of Justice announced that "Volkswagen AG agreed to plead guilty and pay $4.3 billion in criminal and civil penalties." In addition, DOJ announced that indictments were made against 6 VW executives.

The settlement brings VW settlements in dieselgate to nearly $20 billion.

One can't but help wonder whether the EPA under a President Trump, with Scott Pruitt in charge, will be as vigilant as the current agency under administrator Gina McCarthy.

Thursday, January 12, 2017 in The New York Times

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