California air regulators tell vehicle makers to come clean on emissions cheating

By Debra Kahn

10/14/2020 06:39 PM EDT

California officials sent an open letter to vehicle manufacturers Wednesday encouraging them to come clean about any cheating on emissions rules — or else face stiff penalties next year when the state’s new testing lab opens.

Impact: The letter from Air Resources Board deputy executive officer Steve Cliff puts manufacturers of passenger vehicles, trucks, motorcycles, ships, off-road vehicles, engines and other mobile equipment on notice that California officials are looking for evidence of cheating via hardware or software.

Background: California imposed major penalties on Volkswagen in 2015 when ARB found the company had installed devices in diesel vehicles to evade pollution rules by shutting down emissions control systems under normal driving conditions. The state and federal government announced another settlement with Daimler last month.

The letter tells companies to disclose any violations of emissions rules by the end of 2020. The state can impose fines of up to $37,500 per mobile source or engine for violations after 2016, Cliff said.

“Voluntary disclosure will trigger a reduction in penalties; failure to do so may affect the result of future enforcement actions involving your company when CARB’s new techniques — and its new state-of-the-art testing laboratory opening in 2021 — inevitably detect any violations you may have,” Cliff wrote.

What’s next: CARB’s new lab in Riverside — billed as “one of the largest and most advanced vehicle emissions testing and research facilities in the world” — is due to open sometime next year.

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