VW Diesel Emissions Scandal Leads to Calls for “On-The-Road” Testing

Following the discovery that Volkswagen installed “defeat devices,” designed to temporarily reduce emissions during EPA testing, a group is urging the federal government to conduct on-the-road emissions testing and increase fines against auto makers for environmental violations.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition (PDF) with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on October 1, calling for the agencies to take action to prevent any potential repeat of the recent VW diesel emissions scandal.

Last month, it was discovered that certain Volkswagen and Audi vehicles sold with TDI “clean diesel” engines had software installed that was designed to detect when the vehicle was undergoing testing, and reduce the levels of emissions. However, once the testing was over, the vehicles reverted back to their natural state and released extremely high levels of pollutants.

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The petition calls for the agencies to immediately conduct in-use emissions testing of all diesel-powered and gasoline-powered vehicles sold in the U.S. since 2009. The group wants such testing to be standard for all new types of diesel and fossil-fuel powered vehicles from here on out. In addition, the group wants penalties for violators of fuel economy standards increased.

Volkswagen Diesel Engine Problems

On September 18, the EPA issued a notice of violations of the Clean Air Act against the company, and forced a Volkswagen diesel recall affecting almost half a million vehicles in the U.S.

The company has since acknowledged that the software was intentionally installed in 11 million vehicles worldwide, leading to harsh criticism, legal action, and the threat of new regulations not just in the U.S., but in Canada and across Europe as well.

“Lax EPA testing let Volkswagen cheat car buyers and pollute our air for years without getting caught,” Kristen Monsell, a staff attorney with the Center, said in a press release. “VW’s appalling actions show why the EPA must require on-road tests to catch car company cheats. Tougher tests will fight fraud and protect our health and climate from dangerous pollutants spewed by these cars.”

The petition notes that not only did VW diesel emissions cheat customers who thought that they were buying an eco-friendly car, but it also lead to a significant public health threat.

“Emissions of nitrogen oxides contribute to climate change and ocean acidification — nitrogen oxides react with other substances to form the greenhouse gas ozone, and contain a highly potent and long-lived greenhouse gas,” the petition warns. “In addition, ground-level ozone can trigger or worse asthma and other respiratory ailments, make the lungs more susceptible to infection, damage vegetation and reduce crop yields.”

Backlash Over VW Emissions Scandal Continues To Grow

The EPA is warning that Volkswagen could face up to $18 billion in fines. The company has lost its previous CEO and a number of executives and team managers have resigned or been fired. The company’s executives have also been asked to come before Congress and explain the company’s actions.

On September 30, Green Car Journal yanked the Green Car of the Year awards previously given to the 2009 VW Jetta TDI and the 2010 Audi A3 TDI. The company returned the awards this week. It is the first time a company has ever been asked to do so.

The petition also comes as a growing number of Volkswagen diesel emissions class action lawsuits continue to be filed on behalf of consumers, who allege seek damages as a result of the premium paid for the TDI “clean diesel” vehicles and for loss of resale value caused by the recall.

The lawsuits allege that Volkswagen committed fraud and provided false and misleading information when promoting the vehicles as environmentally friendly and energy efficient.

A number of plaintiffs have requested that lawsuits filed nationwide in federal courts be consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of a Volkswagen diesel recall MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

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