The Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department have announced a $150 million legal settlement with two major automakers for violating federal global warming law — the largest Clean Air Act settlement in history.
Automakers Hyundai and Kia have entered into a consent decree with the EPA promising to pay a $100 million to fix legal problems with their U.S. testing and vehicle certification programs. These certification programs are integral to EPA carbon dioxide emissions and fuel economy measurements. Automakers also agreed to spend $50 million to prevent future Clean Air Act from occurring.
“Greenhouse gas emission laws protect the public from the dangers of climate change, and today’s action reinforces EPA’s commitment to see those laws through,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement.
“Businesses that play by the rules shouldn’t have to compete with those breaking the law,” she added. “This settlement upholds the integrity of the nation’s fuel economy and greenhouse gas programs and supports all Americans who want to save fuel costs and reduce their environmental impact.”
According to the government’s legal complaint, Hyundai and Kia mislabeled the “road load force” for some of their vehicles which is a measure of the forces that cause a vehicle to slow down. Automakers are required to calculate road load force under the EPA’s tailpipe rules for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The EPA says a “vehicle’s road load force and its GHG emissions are closely correlated” as the more resistance a vehicle receives when moving “consumes more fuel and emits more GHGs.”
Agency “testing of certain representative Hyundai and Kia vehicles yielded road load forces that were higher, in some cases substantially higher, than what Hyundai and Kia reported in the application for the [certificates of conformity] for those vehicles.”
The legal settlement with Hyundai and Kia require to the automakers to give up 4.75 million greenhouse gas emission credits — estimated to be worth more than $200 million. Automakers earn credits for building lower emission vehicles to offset emissions from higher emission vehicles.
“This type of conduct quite simply will not be tolerated,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “And the Justice Department will never rest or waver in our determination to take action against any company that engages in such activities – whenever and wherever they are uncovered.”
The California Air Resources Board was also party to the lawsuit and will receive $6,343,400 of automakers’ massive fines.
Greenhouse gas tailpipe rules were the result of a lawsuit by environmental groups who wanted to see the Obama administration act on a 2009 greenhouse gas endangerment finding made by the EPA. Starting in 2010, the Obama EPA began cracking down on emissions from light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles.
The EPA has since argued its tailpipe rule to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from mobile sources triggered rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions for stationary sources like power plants and refineries.
States have staunchly opposed rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions and are currently fighting it out in court over EPA global warming rules.
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