Three environmental groups have joined 10 states and the District of Columbia in opposing a new agreement between Harley-Davidson and the U.S. Department of Justice that eliminates a $3 million pollution mitigation project the company previously agreed to.
[caption id="attachment_122711" align="alignright" width="334"] Harley-Davidson Inc.'s headquarters in Milwaukee.[/caption]
Harley entered into an agreement in 2016 with the DOJ and Environmental Protection Agency to pay $3 million towards a program that mitigates pollution by upgrading wood-burning stoves. The company also agreed to pay a $12 million civil penalty after it was accused of selling 340,000 tuners that could cause motorcycles to emit increased levels of pollutants. The EPA also said the company sold 12,000 motorcycles that did not undergo proper certification to meet clean air standards.
Last year, the Department of Justice moved to eliminate the $3 million mitigation program, citing a new policy from Attorney General Jeff Sessions prohibiting payments to third-parties as a part of settlements. Harley’s money would have gone to the American Lung Association of the Northeast.
Attorneys general from 10 states, the District of Columbia and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency filed their opposition to the new agreement on Wednesday, arguing it was not in the public interest because it eliminated any mitigation project. The group also said Harley had agreed to the program and the DOJ got nothing out of dropping it.
“The United States has provided no reasonable basis for eliminating the project and has pointed to no public benefits that accrue from eliminating the project,” Vermont attorney general Thomas Donovan Jr. wrote in the group’s filing. “In fact, the only party that benefits from the elimination of the $3 million mitigation project is the party that allegedly caused the past and ongoing harm in the first instance.”
A federal judge on Thursday accepted filings from the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Counsel and Conservation Law Foundation also arguing against the new agreement.
Among other things, the environmental groups argue the new policy issued by Sessions doesn’t apply to third-party payments intended to mitigate the harm caused by the company providing the money. The NRDC and Conservation Law Foundation point to a Jan. 9 DOJ memo to Environment and Natural Resources Division attorneys that says the payments could be used in limited cases, including addressing the same kind of pollution in cases involving a mobile pollution source.
The government and Harley will have 20 business days to respond to the filings.
Asked for comment on the filings, Michael Pflughoeft, a Harley spokesman, described the original settlement as “a good faith compromise with the EPA on areas of law that we interpret differently,” but did not address any of the claims made by the states or environmental groups.