Harley-Davidson in US air pollution settlement
Something in the air
For motorbike aficionados, the throaty roar of a Harley-Davidson is unmistakable. But a modification sold to customers looking to further increase the power and performance of their bike has landed the company in hot water with the US government.
From 2008 onwards, Harley-Davidson manufactured and sold more than 300,000 ‘Screamin’ Eagle’ Pro Super Tuners allowing users to modify their motorcycle’s emissions control system. However, the Environment Protection Agency have ruled that the tuners in effect acted as illegal ‘defeat devices’ that increased the concentration of harmful air pollutants released into the atmosphere from the bikes’ tailpipes.
An expensive exercise
An agreement has since been reached which will cost the Milwaukee-based company $15 million and will ensure that all future models sold in the US will meet EPA quality standards.
Assistant Attorney General John C Cruden said that the settlement was ‘a very significant step’ in the bid to ‘prevent the sale of illegal aftermarket defeat devices that cause harmful pollution on our roads and in our communities.’ He said the settlement should act as a warning to other suppliers who were breaching laws on emissions.
In its defence, Harley-Davidson claimed that the tuners in question were designed for use on specialised track racing bikes and not intended for use on public roads.
‘This settlement is not an admission of liability but instead represents a good faith compromise with the EPA on areas of law we interpret differently,’ said Ed Moreland, Harley-Davidson’s government affairs director. ‘For more than two decades, we have sold this product under an accepted regulatory approach that permitted the sale of competition-only parts. In our view, it is and was legal to use in race conditions in the U.S.’
A step forward in the fight for cleaner air
The company is required to ensure that all of its future motorcycle models sold in the United States are fully certified by EPA to meet air quality standards.
The agreement will result in the withdrawal of the racing tuners and the destruction of any existing stock. Harley-Davidson will also pay a $12 million civil penalty and spend $3 million to mitigate air pollution through a project to replace local conventional woodstoves with cleaner-burning versions.
The case is the highest profile of its kind since last year’s exposé of Volkswagen’s use of defeat devices in more than half-a-million diesel cars and SUVs designed to cheat emissions tests. Hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide emissions create harmful pollution and exposure to this cocktail of gases has been linked with a range of serious health effects, including increased asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses.
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