EPA makes Toyota its next target on pollution controls, seeks $58.5 billion US
TORRANCE, Calif. (July 13, 1999) — Toyota Motor Corp. said it will defend its environmental record in court after the U.S. Justice Department filed suit against the carmaker yesterday alleging the use of faulty pollution controls.
The suit, brought on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, said that computerized emission control systems in 2.2 million Toyota and Lexus models is not an effective safeguard against evaporative emissions.
The government is seeking up to $58.5 billion in fines: $25,000 per car sold before Jan. 31, 1997, and $27,500 for each car sold after that date.
Toyota said it rejected a settlement with the government that would have cost the company more than $100 million, including a fine of $75 per car.
General Motors, Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., and six diesel engine manufacturers have settled with the U.S. government in the recent years over alleged pollution violations rather than engage a court battle.
The evaporative emissions control system is designed to detect fuel vapor leaks. The EPA is concerned that the computer does not check for defects often enough.
The matter was first raised by the California Air Resources Board, which yesterday began hearings on the same issue before a California administrative law judge in Sacramento, Calif.
Toyota said none of the vehicles in question poses an emissions concern to the environment or a safety threat to consumers, and noted that none bas been recalled. Toyota said the vehicles met EPA and CARB standards when they were initially tested.
“Ultimately, this is not a disagreement over clean air or the performance of an emissions system, so much as a question of an agency’s right to change regulations after the fact, reinterpreting them to fit their agenda,” said Jim Olson, senior vice-president, external and regulatory affairs, for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.
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