The recent sentencing of Hyundai Construction Equipment Americas for Clean Air Act crimes is the latest in EPA and DOJ’s efforts at cracking down on the mobile source market. This represents another Obama era investigation, but indications are that the Trump administration will continue to make enforcement of violations in the mobile source sector a priority.
Hyundai Construction Equipment Americas Inc. Sentenced to $1.9 Million Criminal Fine for Violating the Clean Air Act
On Wednesday, November 14, 2018, Hyundai Construction Equipment Americas Inc. (Hyundai), then a subsidiary of Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. Ltd, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in federal court in Atlanta, Georgia, to pay a $1.95 million dollar criminal fine for conspiring to defraud the United States government and to violate the Clean Air Act, the Justice Department announced today. The charges relate to construction equipment Hyundai imported for sale into the United States from the Republic of Korea that contained engines that did not comply with air emissions standards under the Clean Air Act.
Hyundai imports construction and other equipment into the United States, which it sells to its dealer network. During a phase-in period for new air emissions standards, Hyundai opted to participate in a transition program that allowed it to import limited numbers of engines not in compliance with the new standards. As part of the program, Hyundai had to report the number of imported noncompliant engines to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Hyundai’s imports of noncompliant engines substantially exceeded its allowance. A consultant retained by Hyundai to provide advice about complying with the requirements warned the company that it was out of compliance and that it risked a substantial penalty. The consultant advised Hyundai to stop importing and notify the EPA. Nonetheless, Hyundai continued to import the noncompliant engines, and its employees conspired to lie to the EPA and to impede EPA’s ability to enforce emissions standards. Ultimately, Hyundai submitted a report that intentionally understated the number of noncompliant engines it had imported from Korea.
“This case underscores the necessity for foreign companies that opt to do business in the United States to comply with our Nation’s laws developed to protect human health and the environment,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “A self-reporting regime, such as the one here, depends upon the honesty and integrity of the regulated parties. We hope that this case will chart a new course for Hyundai, and serve as a lesson for all companies that interact with our regulatory agencies.”
“Hyundai Construction Equipment Americas tried to increase its profits by illegally importing diesel engines that did not comply with U.S. Clean Air Act regulations,” said EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Assistant Administrator Susan Bodine. “This case shows that EPA and our law enforcement partners will not allow importers to gain a competitive advantage or risk the health and safety of our communities by evading U.S. environmental laws.”
Assistant Attorney General Clark thanked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division for its work in this investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Counsel Krishna Dighe of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Huber, Deputy Chief of the Complex Fraud Section, of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia.