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United States v. Caterpillar, Inc.

Citation: 33 ELR 20034
No. Nos. 98-2544 (HHK), -2548 (HHK), 227 F. Supp. 2d 73/(D.D.C., 09/05/2002)

The court denies heavy-duty diesel engine manufacturers' motions to modify consent decrees they entered into with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to settle claims that they violated the Clean Air Act and its implementing regulations by selling engines that emitted excess pollution and by failing to disclose how the engines operated in real-world conditions. A key component of the decree requires the manufacturers to meet by October 1, 2002, engine emission standards that will not otherwise be applicable until January 2004. The manufacturers sought a modification of this requirement on the grounds that unanticipated cost increases make compliance with the decree substantially more onerous. The court first holds that the cost increases are not nearly as substantial as the manufacturers allege, nor were they unanticipated. In addition, the manufacturers argue that enforcement of the decree will be a detriment to the public interest. The manufacturers claim that as a result of the cost increases, the trucking industry is engaging in a buildup or "pre-buy" of current engines before the October 2002, deadline goes into effect, and that there will be a corresponding period of depressed demand or "no-buy" after the deadline. Due to these pre-buy and no-buy periods, the manufacturers contend that older, dirtier engines will remain on the road longer, substantially decreasing the reduction in emissions under the decree. EPA, however, provided substantial reason to doubt the manufacturers' estimates of the extent of the pre-buy and no-buy and their impact on the emissions reductions achievable under the decree. Even if the manufacturers' figures are true, the decree will still offer substantial public health benefits. In addition, the court holds that the decree clearly provides that EPA's model year 2004 nonconformance penalties will be applied to engine manufacturers who do not meet the October 2002 deadline. And the court holds that one of the manufacturers lacked standing to challenge EPA's approval of certain emission control strategies developed by other engine manufacturers to comply with the decrees.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Thomas Carroll
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Counsel for Defendant
Robert G. Abrams
Howrey, Simon, Arnold & White
1299 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington DC 20004
(202) 783-0800