U.S. Volkswagen hearing will have implications for industry, EPA

Tue Oct 6, 2015 5:47pm EDT
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By David Morgan

WASHINGTON Oct 6 (Reuters) - Volkswagen's top U.S. executive on Thursday will field questions from U.S. lawmakers on how the automaker managed to evade pollution rules, kicking off a congressional probe into the scandal and whether other automakers might be implicated.

But the high-profile proceedings will also scrutinize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's failure to identify Volkswagen AG's admitted cheating strategy for years, lawmakers and aides told Reuters.

Any issue with EPA's operations could lead Congress to request independent government inquiries of the agency by the watchdog Government Accountability Office and the EPA Inspector General, the aides said.

"The first thing is to look at the Volkswagen issue, in and of itself. Second is to ask the same question of other carmakers and see if there is any such activity taking place," said U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn, the Tennessee Republican who is vice chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Any evidence that other auto manufacturers have also used so-called defeat devices to evade EPA emissions standards could prompt lawmakers to consider legislation to tighten EPA test procedures, according to aides.

But Thursday's proceedings, which formally kick off the congressional probe, will focus specifically on the case of Volkswagen, Germany's largest carmaker.

Volkswagen America's President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Horn will testify alone and under oath before the panel's oversight and investigations subcommittee.

The lawmakers will also evaluate whether the current U.S. environmental regulations are too strict for companies to comply, when questions turn to a second panel including two senior EPA officials - Christopher Grundler, director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality and Phillip Brooks, director of the Air Enforcement Division.   Continued...