Publication Date 05/18/2010
Source: New York Times Online
In what the Justice Department has described as the largest vehicle and engine importation case brought by the United States to date under the Clean Air Act, the Pep Boys automotive parts and repair chain has agreed to pay a record $5 million fine.
The Environmental Protection Agency accused the company of importing nearly a quarter-million noncompliant motorcycles, recreational vehicles and other motor-driven devices, like generators, into the United States from China over a period of about six years.
An E.P.A. statement issued jointly on May 10 with the Justice Department said the case was the largest both in terms of the number of units involved and the civil penalty paid that had ever brought against a company. A Pep Boys supplier, Baja Inc., based in Phoenix, also was cited in connection with the matter and fined $25,000.
Importers of foreign made vehicles and engines must comply with the same Clean Air Act requirements that apply to those selling domestic products, and this settlement demonstrates that we will take strong action to ensure that importers comply with their obligations, said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in the E.P.A. statement. Under this settlement, Pep Boys and Baja will not only pay a civil penalty, but will offset the excess emissions from the vehicles and engines already sold and take steps that go beyond what the law requires to ensure that their future imports and sales meet Clean Air Act standards.
The original complaint alleged that Pep Boys and Baja imported and sold at least 241,000 illegal vehicles and engines from 2004-9.
Pep Boys strives to be a good corporate citizen, said Brian Zuckerman, general counsel for Pep Boys, in a statement issued in conjunction with the E.P.A. settlement. Unfortunately, in this circumstance, we relied upon our vendors to ensure that their products were compliant. We now take it upon ourselves to ensure that all of our small-engine merchandise fully complies with the Clean Air Act.
Pep Boys has agreed to ship out of the country or destroy more than 1,300 noncompliant vehicles and engines. Pep Boys will also implement projects to offset the emissions of the vehicles and engines it previously sold to consumers. It was estimated that the vehicles would produce 620 tons of excess hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide emissions, and more than 6,520 tons of excess carbon monoxide emissions. The company will also offer discounts on push-type or electric lawnmowers to replace noncompliant gas-powered mowers.
The E.P.A. said, At least 45 vehicle and generator models imported and sold by Pep Boys and Baja were not certified to meet federal emission standards. Pep Boys also failed to provide buyers with the full emission-system warranty required by the Clean Air Act.
Pep Boys, with annual sales of more than $1.9 billion, operates more than 580 stores in 35 states and Puerto Rico.