Bill to Prevent Emission Cheats Advances in CA

Monday, March 20, 2017

Tools for ARB to Detect Vehicles Gaming Emissions Tests

(Sacramento) – Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia’s (D- Bell Gardens), legislation to provide new tools and resources to the Air Resources Board (ARB) today passed the Assembly Natural Resources Committee with an 8-1 vote.  The bill would enable ARB to stay current on new vehicle technologies that could violate California’s clean air laws, like Volkswagen was discovered to have done last year.

The legislation is in response to the 85,000 Volkswagen diesel vehicles registered in California that were found to emit excessive nitrous oxide (NOx), using software or a “defeat device” that bypassed state emissions tests.  The NOx emissions create nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, and ozone pollution.   

“VW developed its defeat device over ten years ago but technology evolves rapidly –for a point of reference the iPhone is less than ten years old,” said Cristina Garcia, Chair of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.  “There is reason to suspect that other car makers are looking for new ways to circumvent our emissions requirements. This bill enables the ARB to find potential violators by staying current with the tools available today.”

California has made large strides in cleaning up the air, but Volkswagen's violations were particularly harmful because so many parts of the state still have some of the worst air quality in the nation.  The area Garcia represents, and lives in, ranks among the worst of California’s communities which are disproportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution, including 6 freeways.  These pollutants cause lung disease, heart disease, and premature death, especially among the most vulnerable populations like children and the elderly.

During the defeat device investigation it was discovered Volkswagen engineers realized-- ten years ago-- that the emissions control equipment installed in their diesel engines did not meet federal and California emissions standards.  Instead of complying, Volkswagen purposefully skirted the law by developing defeat device software that detects when the vehicle is being tested and activates the emissions control equipment solely for passing the test.  This allowed Volkswagen to extend the life of the emissions control equipment while appearing to be in compliance with federal and California standards.  However, when not being tested, the vehicles emitted NOx up to 40 times the legal limit.

Recently, the ARB discovered that other automakers may also be using defeat devices to skirt California's policies.  While ARB was instrumental in catching Volkswagen, the automaker’s vehicles were able to pollute California’s air for nine years before being discovered.  AB 582 would direct ARB to enhance their new motor vehicle emission testing program to include more real-world condition testing.  AB 582 would also give ARB the ability to secure additional funding to perform more independent testing.

“My legislation keeps our state at the forefront of protecting Californian's and consumers from deceitful polluters. The people of California are tired of seeing entities game the system for their own benefits. The rules apply to everyone,” said Chairwoman Garcia.   

AB 582 will next be heard in the Assembly Transportation Committee.