Harley-Davidson settles air pollution case
There’s no mistaking the throaty roar of a Harley-Davidson motorbike. But it looks like a modification that was offered to customers looking to enhance their bike’s power and performance has landed the company in serious trouble with the US government.
The problem dates back to 2008. In that year Harley-Davidson introduced its ‘Screamin’ Eagle’ Pro Super Tuner which allowed users to modify their motorcycle’s emissions control system. It’s estimated that more than 300,000 have been sold. Problem is, the Environment Protection Agency have since ruled that the tuners acted as illegal ‘defeat devices’, increasing the concentration of harmful air pollutants released into the atmosphere from the bikes’ tailpipes.
A big payout
In light of the ruling, an agreement has been reached which will cost the Milwaukee-based company a whopping $15 million. It will also 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 admitted that the settlement would also act as a warning to other suppliers who may be breaching laws on emissions.
In response, Harley-Davidson stated that the tuners were originally manufactured to modify specialised track racing bikes and were never 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.’
Working towards a cleaner atmosphere
Harley-Davidson will now need to ensure that any future motorcycle models sold in the United States are fully certified by EPA to meet air quality standards.
It also means that existing racing tuners will be withdrawn and any existing stock destroyed. The company will have to pay a $12 million civil penalty and also commit to spending $3 million on a project to replace local conventional woodstoves with cleaner-burning versions.
It’s the most high-profile case since Volkswagen was charged with fitting defeat devices in more than half-a-million diesel cars and SUVs in order 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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