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U.S. Opinions: Kansas City

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EPA botches oversight of vehicle mileage claims

From an editorial Tuesday in the Kansas City Star:

Indeed, the mileage claims made by automakers play a key role in a multibillion-dollar industry that deserves close government scrutiny. But what happens when the regulators fall down on the job?

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has failed consumers with its abysmal handling of a misreporting controversy involving the fuel efficiency of some recent Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

As detailed in The Kansas City Star on Sunday, the EPA won’t tell the public specifics about the problems involving auto mileage estimates from the two automakers. The EPA also won’t comment when asked about how well the annual fuel economy standard tests are overseen by the government these days. Finally, it’s extremely disappointing that environmental groups had to pressure the EPA to check into complaints about lower-than-expected mileage for certain vehicles.

The entire episode amounts to a shocking dereliction of duty by the EPA. For decades, the public has come to believe that the EPA essentially endorses whatever mileage statements carmakers make.

But the controversy tarnishes Hyundai, Kia and the EPA. Plus, other major auto manufacturers such as GM are left to wonder whether the public will now distrust their estimates, too.

So were the recent errors honest mistakes? No one knows because the carmakers have not disclosed exactly what might have gone wrong.

Another problem: The EPA reportedly does not hire an outside expert to randomly check vehicles on the accuracy of their stated mileage claims. Why did the agency stop such monitoring? Will it restart the program? Cue up the mum EPA officials, who also refused to provide documents about the entire matter.

So much for being a public watchdog. In this case, the EPA seems more like an apologist for bad behavior by parts of the auto industry.

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