U.S. House Republicans want answers on VW settlements

November 1, 2016 2:44 PM EDT

A Volkswagen (VW) logo covered with dust is seen at a car in Grafenwoehr, Germany, October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle


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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two senior U.S. House Republicans on Tuesday asked environmental regulators to answer questions about Volkswagen AG's diesel emissions settlements, including disclosing how the government calculated the penalties imposed on VW to offset excess pollution.

In a letter, Representative Fred Upton, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Representative Tim Murphy asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to disclose how much excess pollution VW vehicles sold in the United States since 2009 have emitted. VW has agreed to spend $2.7 billion on efforts to offset the pollution.

The legislators also want information on the requirement that VW spend $2 billion over 10 years on zero-emission vehicle investments. Some electric vehicle-charging firms and others have raised concerns about the impact of the spending on the marketplace.

Volkswagen is ramping up its electric vehicle offerings and the automaker has not sold any diesel vehicles in the U.S. market since late 2015, when it admitted to installing secret software to evade emissions rules. The automaker has said it is uncertain if it will resume diesel sales.

"VW may be able to obtain substantial competitive benefits, if not a monopoly on electric vehicle infrastructure, under the required investments," the letter said. "This is a curious outcome for the settlement of a cheating scandal."

An EPA spokesman said the agency will review and respond to the letter.

The EPA has declined to say how much excess pollution it thinks the Volkswagen vehicles will emit or how much excess pollution will be offset under the $2.7 billion program.

Volkswagen spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan declined to comment on the letter but noted that over the next four months the automaker will submit its zero emission outreach and infrastructure investment plan to state and federal regulators.

In total, the world's second-largest automaker has agreed to spend up to $16.5 billion in connection with the scandal, including payments to dealers, states and attorneys for owners.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco approved Volkswagen's $14.7 billion settlement with owners and regulators.

That agreement includes up to $10.033 billion to buy back as many as 475,000 polluting cars and the $4.7 billion for the zero emission and diesel pollution offset programs.

Volkswagen has also agreed to make up to $1.21 billion in payments to VW dealers and $600 million to 44 U.S. states to address some claims. It still faces billions more in costs to address 85,000 polluting 3.0-liter diesel-powered vehicles and Justice Department fines for violating clean air laws.

Volkswagen has been in talks over how much compensation it may offer owners of the larger 3.0-liter diesel vehicles that emit up to nine times legally allowable emissions and whether it will offer buybacks. It faces a court hearing on Thursday on the issue.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler)



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