State environmental watchdog still buying diesel vehicles

Despite warning public on fossil-fuel emissions, 80% of EPA fleet powered by diesel

The State’s environmental watchdog is continuing to buy diesel vehicles six years after vowing to green its overwhelmingly fossil-fuel powered fleet, newly obtained records reveal.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – which has been warning the public for years about diesel's toxic role in emitting climate changing greenhouse gases and causing heart attacks and lung disease – has bought eight diesel SUVs and vans since 2016.

It comes as Green Party leader Eamon Ryan on Sunday confirmed his party wants to examine heavier taxation of SUV-style vehicles in the next budget, saying it "does make sense for us to send a signal that we want to switch to lighter, cheaper and more fuel-efficient cars".

The latest purchase by the EPA of diesel vehicles is a Ford Connect LWB van, at a cost of €22,842 and bought last year. It is used for inspection visits and maintenance works on air monitoring sites, according to the EPA.


In 2019, it bought two diesel Toyota Landcruisers – at about €42,000 each – for the purpose of visits, audits and inspections of industrial and agricultural sites as well as waste facilities.

Other diesel vehicles purchased since a pledge to decarbonise its 33-strong fleet include three Toyota Landcruisers in 2018 (costing €132,000 in total), a Mitsubishi Pajero (€37,349) in 2016, and a Ford Transit (€24,184) the same year.

The agency also leases a 2019-registered diesel-fueled Ford Transit Connect at €400 a month. It is used for visiting water flow monitoring programmes.

In total, 26 of the EPA’s 33 vehicles – almost 80 per cent – run solely on diesel, according to the latest records released under freedom of information laws.

Just two vehicles are electric, despite a €250,000 tender put out three years ago for six.

The agency also bought five hybrid Mitsubishi Outlanders, at a cost of €234,000, to be used for visits, audits and inspections of industrial and agricultural sites as well as water sampling, transporting equipment and towing boats.

Despite spending almost a €250,000 on the hybrid vehicles during 2016 and 2017, the EPA said they “proved unsuccessful” in being used for some off-road activities.

Diesel-powered vehicles are needed to “facilitate off-road work ranging from landfill inspection to lake/river monitoring,” a spokeswoman said.

“Requirements would include off-road driving over rough terrain and towing of equipment including boats,” she added.

She said there “have been no suitable fully electric or plug-in hybrids on the market to suit these requirements”. However, the EPA has also said a “restructuring” of an electric vehicle has equipped it to replace an existing diesel-powered Toyota Landcruiser.

On the tender put out three years ago to purchase six electric vehicles – three cars and three vans – the EPA accepted just two have been bought “as our transport requirements changed as we moved into lockdowns as a result of Covid-19”.

“As we emerge from restrictions in 2022, we have already purchased two additional fully electric vehicles that will be used for monitoring work,” the spokeswoman said.

“One of these vehicles has replaced a 4X4 Landcruiser following a restructuring of the requirements for this vehicle.”

The EPA said it “actively reviews” vehicles currently available for sale before adding to its fleet “as our policy requires us to purchase non fossil-fuel vehicles where possible”.