EPA probes pre-buying allegations

| 5/15/2002

According to a story Tuesday in the Chicago Tribune, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investigating whether seven major truck-engine manufacturers have been improperly encouraging customers to "pre-buy" engines before the Oct. 1 deadline for meeting new emissions rules.

The EPA reportedly sent a letter to Caterpillar and Cummins, as well as other engine manufacturers involved in a 1998 consent decree requiring them to meet emissions standards - in October 2002 - previously set for 2004. The letter allegedly asks if they have taken any action to encourage pre-buying. Engine manufacturers are prohibited from encouraging pre-buying under terms of the 1998 decree.

Cummins, which has already satisfied the EPA requirements that cuts emissions, told the newspaper "We've got an EPA-compliant engine, and [thus] no reason to encourage a pre-buy."

A spokesperson at Caterpillar, which has said the company will be unable to meet the Oct. 1 emissions deadline, flatly denied they have encouraged pre-buying, the Tribune reported. Instead, he said, the EPA itself is "precipitating a pre-buy" by refusing to delay implementation of the October target.

The EPA's inquiry reportedly started after the agency received "some reports from other manufacturers that some companies might be circumventing the consent decree by offering extraordinary incentives" or other encouragement.

According to the newspaper, the new engines are expected to cost about $4,000 to $5,000 more th