Automotive and hardware retailer Pep Boys will pay $5 million in civil penalties under a settlement in what the Environmental Protection Agency says is its largest case ever involving imported vehicles and engines violating the Clean Air Act.
The EPA said Pep Boys and supplier Baja Inc. “imported and sold at least 241,000 illegal vehicles and engines” from China in 2004-09 that did not meet U.S. emission standards. The 45 product models listed in the EPA complaint include all-terrain vehicles and generators in addition to motorcycles. Baja is also settling in the case, the agency said.
The Pep Boys – Manny, Moe & Jack in 2008 was the nation’s third-largest importer of Chinese-made ATVs, and in 2006-07 was the fourth largest importer of generators, the EPA said.
Brian Zuckerman, the company’s general counsel, said “Pep Boys strives to be a good corporate citizen. 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.”
The agency said its inspectors and those of Customs and Border Protection “discovered the violations through inspections conducted at Pep Boys stores, at U.S. ports, and through a review of importation documents” provided to the EPA by the company.
Zuckerman said “the vast majority of the allegations in the EPA’s complaint relate to deficiencies in paperwork,” but that “we do acknowledge the possibility” of excess emissions from some of the goods it sold.
Besides penalties, the settlement calls for Pep Boys to export or destroy 1,300 remaining non-compliant vehicles and engines.
The EPA said those products already sold will generate an estimated 620 tons of excess hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide emissions, and more than 6,520 tons of extra carbon monoxide. To mitigate those effects, Pep Boys will offer discounts on new electric or push lawn mowers for buyers who trade in older gasoline models.
The company has 587 stores in 35 states and Puerto Rico, and operates auto service bays as well as retail space. Zuckerman said, “Pep Boys is proud of its commitment to the environment [and has] chain-wide programs designed to reduce waste and properly handle the hazardous substances contained in the products it sells and uses in its service bays.” All its stores also accept used oil for disposal, he said, and recycle tires, batteries and other products handled in the course of its business.
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