The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice today announced a settlement with Tractor Supply Company Inc. and Tractor Supply Company of Texas L.P., that resolves allegations that the companies imported and sold more than 28,000 all-terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles and engines that did not comply with federal Clean Air Act certification and emission information labeling requirements. Under the settlement, Tractor Supply Company will implement a compliance plan to prevent future violations and mitigation projects to reduce air pollution. Tractor Supply Company will also pay a $775,000 civil penalty.
“Emissions from vehicles and engines can cause serious health and environmental problems, so it’s imperative that importers and vendors ensure their products comply with federal clean air standards,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “It is also critical that we ensure a level playing field for companies that follow the law — that is a cornerstone of our environmental enforcement programs.”
“We will take strong action to ensure that foreign-made vehicles and engines that are imported and sold in the U.S. comply with the same Clean Air Act requirements that apply to domestically-made products,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden, for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Under this settlement, Tractor Supply Company will not only pay a civil penalty and mitigate the potential adverse environmental effects of having sold noncompliant vehicles and engines, but will also take steps to ensure future imports and sales of its vehicles and engines meet Clean Air Act standards.”
The Clean Air Act requires that every vehicle and engine sold in the United States be covered by a valid, EPA-issued certificate of conformity, which manufacturers obtain by certifying that vehicles meet applicable federal emissions standards for various pollutants. EPA and the Justice Department alleged that from 2006 to 2009, Tractor Supply Company imported from China and sold in the U.S. over 28,000 vehicles and engines, representing at least 10 vehicle and engine models, that varied from the certificates of conformity that had been submitted to EPA.
The vehicles had adjustable carburetors that were not described in the applications for certification, were produced by different manufacturers than the ones specified in the applications, were manufactured prior to the dates of the certificates of conformity, had model names that were not identified on the certificates of conformity, or were significantly more powerful than described. Some engines were incorrectly certified as non-road engines rather than as recreational vehicles and some, like certain of the vehicles, were significantly more powerful than described in the allegedly applicable certificate of conformity. The Department of Justice and EPA also alleged that the emission control information labels on certain vehicles did not comply with federal regulations, and that Tractor Supply Company provided an incomplete and inaccurate response to EPA’s information request.
The settlement requires Tractor Supply Company to implement a rigorous corporate compliance plan that requires regular vehicle and engine inspections, emissions and catalyst testing, staff training and reporting for five years. Tractor Supply Company will also mitigate potential adverse environmental effects of equipment already sold to consumers, which is estimated by EPA to be up to 23.5 tons of excess hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide emissions and 12.2 tons of excess carbon monoxide emissions.
Motorcycles, recreational vehicles and spark-ignited engines emit carbon monoxide, a gas that is poisonous at high levels in the air even to healthy people and is especially dangerous to people with heart disease. These machines also emit hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides, which contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, commonly known as smog. Exposure to even low levels of ozone can cause respiratory problems and repeated exposure can aggravate pre-existing respiratory diseases.
This settlement is part of an ongoing effort by the EPA to ensure that importers of vehicles and engines comply with the requirements of the Clean Air Act and that retailers exercise due diligence in ensuring that their products comply fully with the regulations. In a similar case settled with The Pep Boys – Manny, Moe & Jack (Pep Boys) in 2010, EPA required implementation of a similarly extensive corporate compliance plan.
The settlement, lodged Sept. 30, 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.