Sessions’s new policy doesn’t want fines going to third parties.
The Department of Justice decided to eliminate the $ 3 million fine that Harley-Davidson received from President Barack Obama’s administration to fight pollution. The money was supposed to go “to an American Lung Association project promoting cleaner-burning cook stoves.”
The company reached an agreement with the government last August to pay that fine along with a $ 12 million fine for the “manufacture and sale of around 340,000 illegal motorcycle tuners.”
The Case Against Harley Davidson
A government investigation found that Harley-Davidson sold those tuners, which enabled “motorcycles since 2008 to pollute the air at levels greater than what the company certified.” The government decided that the tuners “violated the federal Clean Air Act.”
Harley-Davidson insisted it developed and sold the tuners for competition use only. The EPA retorted that “the vast majority of these tuners were used on public roads.”
The administration also accused Harley-Davidson “of selling more than 12,600 motorcycles that were not covered by an EPA certification governing clean air compliance.”
Obama’s administration celebrated the agreement with Harley-Davidson:
“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 C. 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.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions decided last month to reverse Obama’s rules that “banks and companies donate money to outside groups as part of settlement agreements with the federal government.” Sessions would rather the fines go elsewhere, according to The Washington Post:
“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.
The Washington Postcontinued:
“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 the Justice Department had put into place a Trump administration policy overturning Obama-era penalties intended to offer redress — such as funding an antipollution initiative.
The DOJ cited Sessions’s new policy in a court filing “and an ongoing review of the penalty by a government auditor in dropping the $ 3 million penalty from the settlement.”
A federal judge in D.C. must approve this revised consent decree. The $ 12 million fine still stands.