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Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Attorney General Donovan Leads Challenge to Restore Funds for Woodstove Upgrades to Federal Settlement

February 1, 2018

CONTACT: Nicholas Persampieri , Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-3186

February 1, 2018

Leading a coalition of 11 attorneys general, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan opposed the elimination of $3 million in funding for woodstove upgrades from a proposed settlement between the federal government and Harley-Davidson. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (WA) joined the attorneys general in the brief.

The proposed settlement between the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and Harley-Davidson resolved a claim filed by the DOJ on behalf of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that Harley-Davidson manufactured and sold “tuners” that, once installed, caused motorcycles to emit excess amounts of certain harmful air pollutants—hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides. The settlement was originally proposed and lodged with the federal court for public comment in August 2016.

As originally proposed, the settlement provided that Harley-Davidson would cease sale of the tuners, offer to buy back tuners remaining in dealer inventory, pay a civil penalty of $12 million, and mitigate excess emissions by funding a $3 million project to reduce air pollution by retrofitting or replacing higher polluting wood-burning appliances such as woodstoves. The $3 million project was to be implemented by the American Lung Association of the Northeast, and Vermont believed that some of the funds would be made available as incentives for woodstove retrofit and replacement projects in Vermont.

In July 2017, following the change in administration in Washington, DOJ proposed a substitute settlement which is identical to the original, except it does not include the $3 million woodstove mitigation project. DOJ claims that the removal of the woodstove mitigation project from the settlement was due to a new policy issued by the U.S. Attorney General that prohibits federal settlements from including payments to third parties. In their opposition, the States argue that this policy does not apply to projects like the woodstove mitigation project that directly remedies the harm caused by pollutants emitted by the non-compliant Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The settlement removes the $3 million woodstove mitigation project without receiving anything in exchange.

Older, high-polluting woodstoves are a public health hazard in Vermont and around the country. In their opposition brief, Attorney General Donovan and the other attorneys general ask that the court deny approval of the proposed settlement unless the $3 million woodstove project is restored or replaced with a substantially equivalent mitigation project.

Along with Vermont, the attorneys general of Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and the District of Columbia, and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency also joined in the brief.

Last modified: February 1, 2018