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Navistar to pay $52 million, reduce air pollution as part of settlement with feds

The agreement ends a case the government brought accusing the Lisle truck maker of violating the Clean Air Act.

Truck maker Navistar will pay $52 million and agreed to reduce future air pollution as part of a government settlement over alleged air pollution violations.
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Truck maker Navistar will pay $52 million and take actions that will reduce future air pollution by 10,000 tons as part of a government settlement over alleged illegal emissions from the company’s diesel engines, according to a settlement filed in federal court in Chicago Monday.

U.S. prosecutors filed suit in 2015 alleging that the Lisle-based company violated the federal Clean Air Act when it sold heavy-duty engines five years earlier that did not meet government emissions standards and were not certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Clean air laws exist for a reason — to protect the public,” said Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental health programs for the advocacy organization Respiratory Health Association in Chicago. “This is an appropriate restitution and compliance as part of the settlement.”

Under the agreement, Navistar will replace older, dirtier diesel engines with cleaner-burning versions in order to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, which produce smog and threaten public health, by 10,000 tons over four years. The EPA will have to approve any programs Navistar proposes for the air-pollution reduction and said the plans should benefit communities already overburdened by air pollution.

“An objective of this consent decree is to mitigate the impact of past and future excess emissions resulting from the violations while taking into consideration environmental justice concerns through the selection of mitigation projects,” according to the agreement.

Environmental justice areas, often low-income communities of color with an an inordinate amount of pollution, often have poor air quality exacerbated by diesel sources, such as truck engines.

“Older diesel engines without modern emissions controls emit significant amounts of air pollution that harms people’s health and takes years off people’s lives,” Larry Starfield, acting administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance in Washington, said in a statement.

Navistar, which will pay a civil penalty of $52 million, does not admit violating the law and will not face further government action once the agreement is fully approved in court.

In a statement, the company said it’s “pleased to put this legacy issue behind us and eager to focus on transportation solutions for the future.”

Navistar is owned by a subsidiary of Volkswagen, which itself was a subject of a major emissions scandal that was first discovered in 2015. Caught using software that fooled air emissions tests for diesel-fuel cars, Volkswagen paid billions of dollars in fines and civil penalties, including for programs designed to reduce air pollution in Illinois.

Earlier this year, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced plans to revise some of the proposed spending, which included almost $90 million in remaining funds from the Volkswagen settlement as of March.

The agreement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

Contributing: Jon Seidel

Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.