- July 18 - A Georgia congressman has drafted legislation that would force taxpayers
to pay the penalties for Caterpillar and other diesel engine makers who sell dirty
diesel truck engines that fail to meet federal pollution standards, Clean Air
Trust reported today.
Rep. Mac Collins (R-Ga.) drafted the bill in an apparent response to lobbying
by trucking interests, which have teamed up with Caterpillar Inc. to lobby Congress
and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to postpone new pollution standards
for diesel trucks due to take effect in October of this year.
Caterpillar, unlike some of its rivals, has said it will not meet the standards
on time. Companies that fail to meet the standards must pay a dirty-air penalty
to the government, under terms of a 1999 consent agreement that Caterpillar and
other diesel engine makers signed with the Justice Department.
The Collins legislation would require that any dirty-air penalty "be paid
by the (EPA) Administrator to the purchaser of such engine" manufactured
by any diesel engine maker that "fails or refuses to comply" with the
terms of the consent agreement.
"In effect, Rep. Collins would make taxpayers foot the bill for dirty
diesel engines," said Frank O'Donnell, executive director of the Clean Air
Trust. "This is a classic case of corporate irresponsibility. Caterpillar
refused to live up to the terms of its agreement with the government. And now
Rep. Collins would force the public to subsidize this bad corporate behavior --
and breathe dirty air."
O'Donnell noted that another diesel engine maker, Cummins, has already produced
diesel engines that meet the new standards. Other diesel engine makers are expected
to receive federal approval in the near future.
Collins, a former owner and operator of a trucking company now run by his sons,
is one of the leading congressional recipients of campaign contributions by the
trucking industry. He received $28,749 in PAC contributions from trucking interests
in the last two election cycles, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Earlier this week, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman pledged at a congressional
hearing that she would not reduce proposed penalties for companies such as Caterpillar
that fail to meet the standards. Whitman made the pledge as a July 16 hearing
before a House Government Reform subcommittee in response to a question by Rep.
Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).
On July 10, Collins wrote to Whitman and urged her to postpone the October
deadline by at least 15 months. Whitman reportedly rejected such a proposal in
a meeting last week with congressional representatives.
A copy of the draft legislation
is available from the Clean Air Trust.