EPA 'not on track' to reach goals of curbing vehicle-emissions compliance, watchdog

Out of the government's 40 goals, 10 were not met and just nine were.

Updated: January 25, 2023 - 1:11pm

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The Environmental Protection Agency is "not on track" to achieve at least a quarter of its goals set in its National Compliance Initiative to curb vehicle emissions, according to a report released Wednesday by the agency's inspector general.

Out of the 40 goals and measures listed in the federal government's plan to stop aftermarket defeat devices or tampering to bypass EPA vehicle emissions standards, 10 were not met and just nine were, the watchdog found.

The remaining 21 measures were either "too vague" to assess or were not evaluated at all, the report also stated.

"The EPA is not on track to reach its own goals for stopping the manufacture, sale, and installation of these illegal [vehicle] components," Inspector General Chad Garland said in his agency's podcast, according to the official transcript.

Tampering with vehicles or installing devices to bypass emission standards is illegal under the Clean Air Act.

Seth Gerhart, a program analyst at the Inspector General's Office of Special Review and Evaluation, said "no one really knows" how widespread the problem is.

One agency estimate found that 15 out of every 100 diesel pickup trucks have no emissions controls and yet they account for 75% of all diesel pickup truck emissions. 

The COVID pandemic was one of the biggest problems that the government faced in enforcing the regulations as inspectors could not easily do in-person training, Gerhart said.

"But beyond that, there’s also vagueness in how some metrics were written and inconsistencies in how the EPA and regions interpreted the plan," he said.

The watchdog made five recommendations, all of which are unresolved, as the EPA either disagreed with them or did not acceptably act, the report states.