House panel quizzes EPA on VW zero emission vehicle fund

Tue Dec 6, 2016 1:00pm EST
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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. House panel on Tuesday questioned the Environmental Protection Agency's diesel emissions settlement with Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE: Quote), which requires the German automaker to invest $2 billion in zero emission vehicle efforts over 10 years.

Representative Tim Murphy, who heads a House Energy and Commerce panel, raised doubts about the government's oversight of the fund to boost electric vehicle charging stations and other green vehicle efforts.

The settlement "raises the potential that VW's penalty for bad behavior may not be entirely without benefit for VW's own future operations," he said at the hearing.

Under the settlement approved in October by a federal judge, VW must spend $2 billion over 10 years to improve infrastructure, access and education to support and advance ZEVs, including $800 million in California.

Volkswagen is ramping up its electric vehicle offerings and the automaker has not sold any diesel vehicles in the U.S. market since late 2015, when it admitted to secretly installing software to evade emissions rules.

Murphy said the massive investment comes "coincidentally just as VW is launching a new strategy to enter and grow its share in the electric vehicle market." He told reporters it was the equivalent of the "fox guarding the hen house."

The EPA's Cynthia Giles told the House panel that EPA officials are "not the deciders" on the VW investments but that the agency will oversee VW to ensure it complies with the settlement.

In total, the world's second-largest automaker has agreed to spend up to $16.5 billion in connection with the scandal, including payments to dealers, states and attorneys for owners. That includes $2 billion for zero emission vehicle efforts and $2.7 billion to offset excess diesel emissions.   Continued...

A Volkswagen logo is pictured at the newly opened Volkswagen factory in Wrzesnia, Poland, September 9, 2016. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo - RTSSBWJ