US to cut EPA vehicle testing budget under Trump plan

© Reuters. US President Donald Trump speaks between Vice President Mike Pence and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt before signing an executive order on “energy independence,” eliminating climate change regulations from the era of Obama, during an event.

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration would virtually eliminate federal funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget for vehicle emissions and fuel economy tests, but will seek to raise industry fees to pay for some tests, shows a government document.

The cuts would cut more than half of the EPA department staff who test vehicles, engines and fuel to verify that emissions standards are met and that mileage labels are accurate. His work helped Volkswagen AG (DE 🙂 to admit in 2015 that it violated vehicle emissions rules for years.

In a March 21 budget document published online by the Washington Post, the Trump administration proposed eliminating $ 48 million in federal funding for testing and certification of vehicles and fuels from the EPA.

It represents a 99 percent federal cut to the vehicle testing budget and would require “practically closing the test lab,” said Margo Oge, who headed the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality during Barack Obama‘s presidency.

The proposal, which would also cut 168 out of 304 full-time jobs, seeks to partially fund current operations by increasing the fees auto and motor manufacturers pay for testing. An EPA official confirmed the authenticity of the document.

The Trump administration has proposed cutting the EPA budget by 31 percent and eliminating more than 50 programs.

EPA spokesman John Konkus declined to answer questions about how the cuts could affect vehicle testing. “We know that we can effectively serve taxpayers and protect the environment. While many in Washington insist on higher spending, the EPA is focused on greater value and real results,” Konkus said.

Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an automobile trade association, said automakers were concerned that the proposed cuts could delay the certification of new vehicles “and the delivery of products to consumers.”

Janet McCabe, a former EPA official in the Obama administration, said Monday that companies that are concerned about complying with the rules may be at a disadvantage if the rules are not strictly enforced.

“We know that a little cheating can mean a lot of air pollution,” McCabe said.

The administration plans to publish a detailed budget plan in May.

In March, Trump ordered a review of the strict fuel efficiency standards for American vehicles set by the Obama administration.

The EPA stepped up scrutiny of automakers after Volkswagen admitted to cheating diesel emissions tests on 580,000 American vehicles. VW agreed to pay up to $ 25 billion in fines and buyback costs and pleaded guilty in March to felony charges.

In September 2015, the EPA said it would review the emissions of all American diesel vehicles after Volkswagen admitted it was using secret software to emit up to 40 times the allowable emissions.

That review prompted the EPA’s accusation in January that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV used undisclosed software to allow excess diesel emissions from 104,000 US trucks and SUVs. Fiat Chrysler denies any wrongdoing.

The EPA is also examining the emissions of Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz vehicles. It has not approved a request from Daimler or Fiat Chrysler to sell 2017 model diesel engines.

The EPA has also investigated cases of several automakers exaggerating mileage on window stickers in recent years.

In 2014, the EPA hit Korean automakers Hyundai Motor Co and affiliate Kia Motors Corp with $ 350 million in fines for overstating fuel economy ratings.