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Environmental Agencies Reject VW's Plan For Recall Over Emissions

The California Air Resources Board has rejected Volkswagen's plan to recall cars with 2-liter diesel engines that trick emissions tests, saying the company's plan is incomplete. The Environmental Protection Agency says it concurs.

The move comes one week after the EPA filed a civil complaint against VW in federal court over the carmaker's use of a defeat device to mislead customers and fool inspectors into thinking the vehicles complied with U.S. rules — when in fact the vehicles were putting out up to 40 times more pollution than is allowed under federal standards.

The EPA says Volkswagen is responsible for nearly 600,000 diesel-powered vehicles that are now producing harmful air pollution in the U.S.

"Volkswagen made a decision to cheat on emissions tests and then tried to cover it up," says CARB chair Mary D. Nichols, announcing her agency's rejection of VW's plan Tuesday. "They continued and compounded the lie and when they were caught they tried to deny it. The result is thousands of tons of nitrogen oxide that have harmed the health of Californians. They need to make it right. Today's action is a step in the direction of assuring that will happen."

Those remarks echo ones from EPA assistant administrator Cynthia Giles, who said last week that the legal action would set the agency and Volkswagen "on a path to resolution."

According to NPR's John Ydstie, California regulators say VW's recall plan fell short in several areas:

The proposed plans contain gaps and lack sufficient detail;

The descriptions of proposed repairs lack enough information for a technical evaluation;

The proposals do not adequately address overall impacts on vehicle performance, emissions and safety.

The California Air Resources Board says it has been conducting its own investigation into the vehicles' diesel emissions, in parallel with a federal inquiry. Together, the agencies confronted Volkswagen in September with data that showed VW was using software to circumvent emissions standards. In November, Volkswagen acknowledged that the problems also exist in its 3-liter diesel engines.

The rejection by CARB and the EPA also comes two days after Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller said of his company's reaction to the EPA's findings, "We didn't lie."

"We had the wrong reaction when we got information year by year from the EPA and from the [California Air Resources Board]," Mueller said in an interview with NPR. He later added, "We have to apologize for that, and we'll do our utmost to do things right for the future."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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