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GENERAL MOTORS TO SPEND $3 MILLION FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLE TECHNOLOGY IN THE NORTHEAST

Release Date: 12/12/1996
Contact Information: Lucy Edmondson, EPA Transportation Specialist, (617) 918-1004 Alice Kaufman, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1064

Boston -- An agreement with the General Motors Company announced today by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice will mean more electric vehicles for the Northeast and a major expansion of EPA's and Massport's Clean Air Partners program (to expand the use of clean fuel vehicles) at Logan Airport. General Motors Corporation will spend more than $7 million on projects in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, as well as California and Arizona to settle the second largest penalty in the 26 year history of the Clean Air Act and the largest ever involving motor vehicles. The settlement is designed to offset air pollution from Cadillac model years 1991-1995 4.9-liter engines that the government charged were equipped with unlawful "defeat devices" prohibited by the Clean Air Act.

Under the plan, which was filed today with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, GM will spend nearly $3 million to either purchase new electric vehicles or convert to electric power a number of existing vehicles in New England and New York.

Under an agreement negotiated by EPA officials in New England and Washington, GM will provide $750,000 to Massport, operator of Boston's Logan International Airport, to purchase electric shuttle buses, pick up trucks, and airport service vehicles. GM will also build eight sophisticated battery charging facilities to service Logan's electric fleet.

"Too often, the first breath a visitor to New England takes is of bus and car exhaust from traffic at the airport," said John P. DeVillars, EPA's New England administrator. "Today's action is an important step toward changing that. And it represents real progress in the effort we have launched with Massport to transform Logan into the world's foremost clean fuel airport. This settlement will eliminate more than 5 million pounds of air pollution and demonstrate a high-tech strategy for meeting newly proposed clean air standards that pose a substantial challenge for northeastern motorists and industry."

Logan Airport will receive eight electric GM pickup trucks to be used by Massport as service vehicles, two electric shuttle buses for transporting passengers around the airport, ten electric airplane tow tractors, and one electric conversion of a conveyor loader.

"We commend EPA, DOJ and GM for including Logan Airport as a site for these innovative projects," said Massport Acting Director Charles Yelen. "Additional electric vehicles at Logan will mean cleaner air both here and in the surrounding communities. We will continue to work with EPA to make sure that Massport and Logan are doing everything possible to support the use of clean fuels."

The agreement will also add at least 40 electric vehicles to state fleets in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Hampshire. The GM "zero emission" electric vehicles will be equipped with advanced nickel metal-hydride batteries, and can travel twice as far as lead acid batteries before recharging.

"I am pleased that GM is stepping up to the plate and will perform these innovative pollution reduction projects," said Lois Schiffer, assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "These projects, obtained through our vigorous enforcement of the Clean Air Act, will mean cleaner air for people living and working in the places most affected by serious air pollution."

"Today's action shows our commitment to ensuring that environmental enforcement protects public health today and in the future," said Steve Herman, assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "In addition to paying a penalty and fixing a problem, GM also will play a role in helping to improve the air we breathe."

The projects are part of a settlement between GM and the United States agreed to in November 1995 under which GM is also recalling and fixing Cadillacs equipped with the illegal defeat devices. The defeat device is a computer chip that causes the vehicle's fuel mixture to be enriched when it anticipates the start of the car's climate control system. The mixture overwhelms the vehicle's catalytic converter, increasing carbon monoxide emissions by as much as three times the legal limit. GM estimates that it will cost the company approximately $25 million to fix this problem. GM has also paid $11 million in civil penalties, bringing the total cost the settlement to about $45 million.