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Kohler to pay $22M in civil penalties for defeat devices on lawn mowers and leaf blowers

The California Air Resources Board, US Department of Justice, and US Environmental Protection Agency announced settlements valued at $22 million with Kohler Co. to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act and California anti-pollution laws. Of the $6 million that California will receive, $4.2 million will fund air pollution research, and $1.8 million will fund an innovative project to supply solar-powered generators to low-income Californians living in areas subject to public safety power shutoffs due to wildfires.

CARB was represented in this case by the California Office of the Attorney General.

In 2015, the Wisconsin-based company voluntarily disclosed to both CARB and US EPA that it failed to comply with certain certification and emission requirements. Subsequent investigation into these issues by the parties revealed that Kohler installed an alleged “defeat device” on a small subset of small off-road engines used to power equipment such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers. CARB’s enforcement program encourages voluntary disclosure by allowing for lower penalties depending on the extent to which a company meets certain criteria.

Kohler voluntarily disclosed some of the violations, mitigated the emissions, and agreed to new procedures to ensure future compliance. In addition, Kohler will be funding an innovative program to supply free ultra-clean solar-powered generators to low-income Californians who live in areas that are subject to more frequent utility power outages.

—CARB Executive Officer Richard W. Corey

The solar-powered generators are capable of running refrigerators or lights, helping ease the impacts of power outages to those affected.

Kohler forfeited emissions credits and is set to implement corporate compliance measures to ensure that violations are not repeated, including establishing an independent environmental regulatory compliance team, conducting annual compliance training, implementing and maintaining an employee code of conduct and ethics helpline for employees to report noncompliance, conducting annual audits, and implementing an emissions testing validation plan that includes third-party observation and emissions verification testing.

The joint settlement agreement entered into among CARB, the US EPA and Kohler Co., lodged in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.


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