Politics & Government

In highest-ever settlement, carmakers Hyundai and Kia to pay feds for Clean Air Act violations

The federal government fined two automakers for improperly certifying how much in greenhouse gases their cars pumped out – a settlement officials said was the largest ever for Clean Air Act violations.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice announced the settlement Monday with Hyundai and Kia. It resolves allegations that the companies sold some 1.2 million vehicles that emit more pollution than the carmakers had certified to the government.

The $100 million civil penalty is the largest in Clean Air Act history, the government said. The companies will also spend about $50 million to prevent any future violations. They will also forfeit 4.75 million greenhouse gas emission credits they had previously claimed, estimated to be worth more than $200 million.

The cases involved the testing and certification of vehicles sold in America. Automakers earn greenhouse gas emission credits for building vehicles with lower emissions than required by law and can use them to compensate for higher emissions from other cars.

In a statement, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said, “Greenhouse gas emission laws protect the public from the dangers of climate change, and today’s action reinforces EPA’s commitment to see those laws through. Businesses that play by the rules shouldn’t have to compete with those breaking the law.”

In an accompanying complaint filed in federal court, the government said the companies sold close to 1.2 million cars and SUVs from model years 2012 and 2013 with design specifications that didn’t match what they certified to the EPA. The cars involved: Hyundai Accent, Elantra, Veloster and Santa Fe, and the Kia Rio and Soul.

Consumers also were affected, the government said, as Hyundai and Kia overstated the fuel economy by one to six miles per gallon, depending on the vehicle.