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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Prepare for smoggier, less healthy air if Trump's pick for EPA is approved

Residents of the San Joaquin Valley and the Los Angeles area are well aware of how bad photochemical smog can be. Both areas still fail to meet not only federal but also California standards for clean, healthy air.

However, based upon testimony during his confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate, residents of those areas had better start getting prepared for a return to smoggier days based upon Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's answers yesterday.

Scott Pruitt, Photo by Michael Reynolds / EPA - Fair use

Pruitt, President*-elect Trump's pick to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has long been a friend to the oil and gas industry and a vocal opponent of several ground breaking environmental laws. During his testimony he refused to say that he would support a certain federal waiver that allows California and other states to adopt air pollution regulations that are more stringent than what EPA requires.

This waiver has allowed California to adopt tougher air pollution controls for motor vehicles, for example, as well as adopting stronger air permitting and air pollution control requirements for industrial sources as well. Those more robust regulations have demonstrably resulted in far greater progress in reducing air pollution in California than otherwise would have occurred under EPA regulations alone.

However, Pruitt, who has a history of arguing for state's rights when it benefits industrial concerns, hinted that continuation of the waiver if he is approved to be EPA's leader will not be a given.

Get out the gas masks - the air around here is going to get hard to breathe real soon.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Will 2017 be the year that all diesel car makers get nailed by EPA and CARB for emission control cheating?

Will 2017 be the year that all diesel car makers get nailed by EPA and CARB for emission control cheating?

Fresh after recent news that the EPA and CARB have agreed on settlement penalties (and some engine fixes) related to the Volkswagen/Audi/Porsche emissions cheating scandal, the agencies announced this week that they are charging Fiat/Chrysler with similar nefarious misdeeds and are issuing Notices of Violation to the corporation and its applicable entities.

Photo: 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep website, Fair use

Apparently a number of auxiliary emission control devices (AECDs) were found in 3.0 liter diesel Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ram pickup trucks from the 2014 - 2016 model years. The devices were not disclosed to either of the agencies when they were submitted for certification under the Clean Air Act.

According to the government, the devices significantly increase emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), a precursor to photochemical smog.

The NOVs apply to about 104,000 of these vehicles nationwide and 14,000 in California.
CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols said, "Once again. a major automaker has failed to meet their (sic) legal obligations for vehicle certification and gotten caught. CARB and USEPA made a commitment to enhanced testing as the Volkswagen case developed, and this is a result of that collaboration."

Nichols was referring to a September 25, 2015 notice that it sent out to all major automakers that diesel vehicles would face expanded emissions testing as part of CARB's In-Use Compliance Program. The program was developed as a result of the Volkswagen scandal.

Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for USEPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, added, "Failing to disclose software that affects emissions in a vehicle's engine is a serious violation of the law, which can result in harmful pollution in the air we breathe...All automakers must play by the same rules, and we will continue to hold companies accountable that gain an unfair and illegal competitive advantage."

In defense of his company, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne reportedly ripped into USEPA, saying that his company had done nothing illegal. He referred to the charges as "offensive" and "incredibly belligerent."  He said, "We're trying to do an honest job here. We're not trying to break the bloody law."

He added that anyone who disagreed with his assertion that there is nothing in common with what VW did and the charges against FCA must be "smoking illegal material."

So far, VW, Audi, Porsche and now Jeep and Dodge have run afoul of EPA and ARB regulators. Many are now asking how many others will be found to have done similar things before the year is over?