The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency came down hard a pair of Los Angeles-based consulting firms for illegally importing 24,478 ATVs from China.

MotorScience Inc., and MotorScience Enterprise Inc., (MotorScience) and their owner, Chi Zheng, have agreed to settle alleged Clean Air Act (CAA) violations to the tune of $3.61 million. The United States will receive 80 percent of collected penalties, and California will receive the remaining 20 percent.

The EPA’s investigation showed that MotorScience obtained EPA certificates of conformity for numerous vehicles without conducting required emissions testing. As alleged in separate complaints filed in federal district court by the United States and the state of California in September 2011, MotorScience arranged for emissions testing of a limited number of vehicles, and then reused those results to obtain certificates of conformity for numerous other, dissimilar vehicles. For at least three of those vehicles, EPA confirmed that their emissions exceeded the federal limits for hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides.

“This illegal importation of over 20,000 vehicles evaded federal emission standards, jeopardizing human health,” says Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Engines operating without proper emissions controls can emit excess carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen which can cause respiratory illnesses, aggravate asthma and contribute to the formation of ground level ozone or smog.”

“Vehicles and engines that are manufactured overseas and sold in the U.S. must meet the same Clean Air standards as domestically-made products,” says Robert G. Dreher, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We will continue to vigorously enforce these laws to ensure that American consumers get environmentally sound products that do not pollute the atmosphere and violators do not gain an unfair economic advantage by skirting the law.”

“The integrity of new vehicle standards are the foundation for achieving our air quality goals in California,” says Air Resource Board Enforcement Chief James Ryden. “When a manufacturer circumvents these requirements, they not only cheat their customers and competitors, but they also shortchange every citizen of our state who relies upon our shared actions to clean the air.”

According to the settlement requirements, for the next 15 years, before either MotorScience or Zheng may engage in any further work involving non-road vehicles and engines, they must follow a rigorous compliance plan to ensure that any emissions testing and certification applications submitted to EPA or the ARB accurately represent those vehicles and engines. Non-road vehicles and engines include recreational vehicles, generators, lawn and garden equipment, and other non-road internal combustion engines.

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