Congressman Drafts Legislation to Make Taxpayers
Foot the Bill for Corporate Irresponsibility
(Washington, D.C. July 18, 2002) - 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.
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 , 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-CA).
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.
As always, please don't hesitate to call (202) 785-9625 if you'd like to discuss these or related issues.