October 7, 2015 / 4:11 PM / in 3 years

EPA officials tell House panel they cannot detail VW probe

A Volkswagen logo is pictured at company's headquaters in Wolfsburg, Germany October 7, 2015. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two senior officials from the Environmental Protection Agency told U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday that they cannot divulge new details about the agency’s probe of Volkswagen without jeopardizing their investigation.

In written testimony submitted to a House oversight panel a day ahead of a Thursday hearing, the EPA officials also said that Volkswagen AG concealed information about its ploy to cheat on diesel emissions after higher emission levels were discovered.

In the biggest business scandal of its 78-year history, Volkswagen has admitted using software code to evade EPA emissions tests in nearly 500,000 diesel vehicles in the United States. Some 11 million Volkswagen vehicles have the same software worldwide. The EPA is investigating the scandal in the United States in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice.

“At this point, we are unable to provide further details of the investigation because the release of such information could jeopardize this ongoing enforcement investigation,” the EPA testimony said.

The two officials - Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, and Phillip Brooks, director of the Air Enforcement Division’s Office of Civil Enforcement - are scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Lawmakers said they intend to find out what Volkswagen did and how the EPA missed the cheat strategy that began in 2008.

The EPA testimony recaps the notice of violation that regulators sent to Volkswagen on Sept. 18, after independent tests showed that its vehicles on the road emitted the pollutant nitrous oxide at unacceptable standards but remained within limits in lab tests.

“After the high emissions were discovered, VW concealed the facts from the EPA, the state of California and from consumers,” the EPA officials said.

Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by James Dalgleish, Bernard Orr

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