Trump DOJ gives Harley-Davidson $3 million discount on Obama-era pollution fine

Company will no longer have to fund project to clean up air pollution 


The Department of Justice announced on Thursday it had dropped a requirement that Harley-Davidson spend $3 million to fight air pollution as part of a settlement reached with the Obama Administration.  

The Milwaukee-based company will remain responsible for $12 million in fines for selling illegal "Screaming Eagle" motorcycle tuners. But it will no longer be compelled to pay $3 million to an American Lung Association project promoting cleaner burning cook stoves, according to the notice from the justice department.  

"Certain new developments led the United States and the defendant to agree to revise the consent decree in this manner," the announcement said. "The original consent decree would have required defendants to pay a non-governmental third-party organization to carry out the mitigation project. Questions exist as to whether this mitigation project is consistent with the new policy."  

It was the first time that the justice department had put into place a new Trump administration policy overturning Obama-era penalties meant at offering redress — such as funding an anti-pollution initiative.  

The settlement agreement with Harley-Davidson dates from August 2016 and involves the manufacture and sale of around 340,000 illegal motorcycle "tuners."  

The devices generate a higher amount of air pollutants. In addition, the company had also produced and commercialized over 12,000 motorcycles without certification from the Environmental Protection Agency.  

Under the agreement with the EPA, Harley-Davidson agreed to halt the selling of the engine "super tuners," buy them back, and destroy them, as well as cover a penalty for violating air pollution laws and "sell only models of these devices that are certified to meet Clean Air Act emissions standards," a statement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said at the time.  

Obama administration officials claimed it was a landmark enforcement action.  

"Given Harley-Davidson's prominence in the industry, this is a very significant step toward our goal of stopping the sale of illegal aftermarket defeat devices that cause harmful pollution on our roads and in our communities," Assistant Attorney General John Cruden, head of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in a statement in August 2016.  

"Anyone else who manufactures, sells, or installs these types of illegal products should take heed of Harley-Davidson's corrective actions and immediately stop violating the law."  

Harley-Davidson also agreed to pay an additional $3 million to the American Lung Association for a project to replace conventional wood stoves with cleaner-burning stoves in northeastern communities.  

Thursday's decision reverses an Obama administration practice of having banks and companies donate money to outside groups as part of settlement agreements with the federal government.  

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the new policy last month.  

"When the federal government settles a case against a corporate wrongdoer, any settlement funds should go first to the victims and then to the American people- not to bankroll third-party special interest groups or the political friends of whoever is in power," Sessions said in a statement.  

But Eric Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Environmental Integrity Project and former director of EPA's Office of Civil Enforcement, said such third-party payments were justified.  

"Once these companies are caught, you can't turn the clock back to undo the damage they've done to public health or the environment, so getting part of the settlement to support actions to reduce that damage going forward helps to make the environment whole, which isn't accomplished just by paying penalties or returning to compliance," he said in an interview.  

The American Lung Association said it was not informed in advance of the decision, and would be forced to drop the program.  

Both the Department of Justice and Harley-Davidson refused further comment.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Nation & World

Trump campaign ad calls Democrats 'complicit' in killings by undocumented immigrants
Trump campaign ad calls Democrats 'complicit' in killings by undocumented immigrants

A new ad released by President Donald Trump's campaign is claiming that Democrats are “complicit” in killings by undocumented immigrants. The ad was released after Senate Democrats opposed a short-term spending bill to keep the government from shutting down. “President Trump is right — build the wall, deport criminals...
Michael Phelps reveals he considered suicide after 2012 Olympics
Michael Phelps reveals he considered suicide after 2012 Olympics

Swimmer Michael Phelps has revealed that after the 2012 Olympics, he considered suicide. “Really, after every Olympics I think I fell into a major state of depression,” he told David Axelrod at the fourth annual conference of the Kennedy Forum, an organization for mental health advocacy, according to CNN. Phelps revealed that...
Deployed troops will be able to watch NFL playoff games
Deployed troops will be able to watch NFL playoff games

UPDATE, 10:03 a.m. 1/21/2018: Despite the shutdown of the United States government early Saturday, the NFL announced Sunday morning that the Armed Forces Network will  air the AFC and NFC Championship games. >> Read more trending news  The NFL also said it is providing free access to the games via NFL Game Pass to all USO centers...
Parents accused of holding their 13 children captive appear in court
Parents accused of holding their 13 children captive appear in court

David and Louise Turpin are facing a string of charges, including torture, after police say the couple kept their 13 children locked away in subhuman conditions in their Perris, California, home. On Thursday, the Turpins made their first court appearance. David Turpin appeared in chains, wearing a lavender shirt and black jacket while his wife...
Dogs found in perfect condition in home where 13 siblings held captive
Dogs found in perfect condition in home where 13 siblings held captive

A pair of well-kept dogs were taken from the Perris, California, house where 13 children were found shackled and severely malnourished last week. David Turpin, 57, and Louise Turpin, 49, are facing a minimum of 94 years for charges including child neglect and torture after police said their children, ranging from ages 2 to 29, were discovered in their...
More Stories