EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Will Enforce Diesel Emissions Rules ‘Very Aggressively’

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt is ready to go “very aggressively” after automakers who’ve cheated on diesel emissions rules as did Volkswagen AG.

While being known for fighting the EPA in recent years, Pruitt said in interview that he’s quite serious about enforcing rules that VW admitted breaking in September 2015. Most recently, that’s meant overseeing investigations on Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Daimler – and filing suit against FCA.

“What VW did was very, very troublesome and we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Pruitt told Reuters Monday.

“Look what VW, and Fiat – you have this Fiat case that is on the horizon as well. The emails and the communications that I’m aware of – it was strategic and intentional and should be dealt with very aggressively,” Pruitt said.

The Department of Justice and EPA have pursued Fiat after obtaining emails in May that raised questions over whether the Italian automaker had followed a similar course as VW. The DOJ had filed suit that month against FCA unit VM Motori SpA, which designed the engine that’s under investigation for emissions violations.

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said in June that the company has been working with the EPA for months, and that he’s confident there was no intention by FCA to set up a defeat device similar to what was used by VW.

Appointment of Pruitt as EPA chief by the Trump administration has been very controversial for environmental groups and clean technology advocates. Along with doubting climate change, former Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times, attempting to block the Obama administration enforcing rules protecting air and water.

Pruitt appears willing to take his fighter stance over to the EPA, at least against automakers who’ve violated federal emissions rules.

The EPA chief thinks the Obama administration was on the right track with VW.

“I wouldn’t call what was done too light at all,” he said, responding to a question on whether he thought the previous administration had been too harsh with the German automaker.

Environmental groups and a few analysts think that Pruitt will be softening the second phase of corporate average fuel economy rules next year. Several automakers have made it clear they expect the EPA to soften the mandates.

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There’s also a good deal of interest in how the EPA and Trump administration will deal with California Governor Jerry Brown’s commitment to stick with its zero emission vehicle rules. The state had invoked a Clean Air Act waiver allowing it to establish its own vehicle emission regulations.

The EPA chief said he does think it’s important to take California’s input on what to do about phase two, covering federal fuel economy and emissions rules covering the 2022 to 2025 period.

“We’ve reached out to the California governor as part of our CAFE midterm review in 2018. I’m hopeful that the state of California, the governor there, will respond with reciprocity and we are working through that process,” Pruitt said.

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