Congressmen's Request For Info on EPA-Toyota Dispute Unanswered

By Justin Torres | July 7, 2008 | 8:24 PM EDT

(CNS) - A request by two Indiana congressmen for information about the Environmental Protection Agency's lawsuit against automobile manufacturer Toyota of North America has gone unanswered by the agency.

Representatives John Hostettler and David McIntosh, both Republicans, sent EPA Director Carol Browner a letter on July 15 asking for information on her agency's lawsuit against Toyota, including an analysis of the potential economic impact of the $58 billion suit on workers and consumers, and the potential environmental benefits of the suit.

Toyota, according to company estimates, has more than 2,300 employees in Indiana making pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, representing a $1.2 billion capital investment.

The two set an August 1 deadline for a response, which has not been met.

"If the EPA finds a violation of law so egregious that it is compelled to file a $58 billion lawsuit, one would think that the EPA would not hesitate to explain it," Hostettler said in a release. "Lawsuits commenced by the federal government are a serious matter. Real people work at Toyota and real people will - if the EPA prevails - have to pay the consequences of the EPA's actions."

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice, which is prosecuting the case on behalf of the EPA, told that the department was aware of the letter, but had no information as to whether a response was planned, or why no response has been sent to the congressmen. Tania Meekins, spokesperson for the EPA, told that the agency was preparing a response but was waiting for the Department of Justice to give an indication of what information could be released while the case is under litigation.

In the letter, released to, Hostettler and McIntosh wrote, "We are concerned that workers and their families will be hurt by this action. . . . We would like you to answer the following questions. First, measured in terms of lives saved or life-years extended, what are the expected public health and safety benefits of EPA's action?"

"Second, measured in terms of employment impacts and company revenues, what is the potential cost of EPA's lawsuit?"

The lawsuit concerns onboard emissions diagnostic systems developed by Toyota in conjunction with the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which was approved by CARB in 1995. However, CARB later rescinded its approval after it claimed the systems failed in tests.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice told that Toyota made "misrepresentations of the function of its onboard devices" that measure emissions.

Toyota refused to redesign the equipment and recall the 2.2 million units in circulation, saying that it was a victim of an ex post facto change in environmental regulations.