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Activists say some motorcycles create air and noise pollution — and they’ll go to court over it

040722 harley davidson of salt lake motorcyle renee bright.png
Renee Bright
Harley-Davidson of Salt Lake City is under scrutiny from an environmental group. They allege the dealership is selling motorcycles that don’t meet federal standards.

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment announced its intent to sue four Harley-Davidson dealerships along the Wasatch Front. They allege the dealers are selling motorcycles that don’t meet federal air and noise standards.

The group claims these dealerships are removing pollution control devices and installing defeat devices — or parts that interfere with emissions and noise control systems. The group has given dealerships 60 days to settle and change their alleged actions before it files a lawsuit.

“Given the fact that our air quality is headed in the wrong direction, we should be doing absolutely every single thing we can to not make it worse,” said Dr. Brian Moench, board president of UPHE. “One of the things we can do is make sure that … businesses that are helping people defeat, drive or sell those illegal products [are] held accountable and forced to stop.”

The group alleges that what the dealerships are doing is a violation of the Clean Air Act and the Federal Noise Control Act. They said Joseph L. Timmons, Jr., the owner of the four dealerships, needs to be held accountable for contributing to Utah’s noise pollution and poor air quality.

The owner did not respond to requests for comment.

In 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency alleged the Harley-Davidson Corporation violated federal law by making and selling devices that similarly modify motorcycles’ emissions control systems, emitting higher amounts of pollution. The EPA and Harley-Davidson reached a settlement that required the company to stop and destroy the devices. They also had to pay a $12 million civil penalty and another $3 million to fight air pollution in communities

This is the third lawsuit UPHE has brought against motor vehicle manufacturers and dealerships for skirting emissions standards, Moench said. In 2017, they filed a lawsuit against the TV stars of the show “Diesel Brothers” for tampering with vehicles that in turn emitted higher levels of air pollution. The stars were fined $760,000 and a federal appeals court upheld that decision last year.

Moench said this latest potential lawsuit was prompted by citizen complaints.

“You can hear motorcycle noise all over this valley, even if you're far removed from freeways,” Moench said. “We don't have to sit back and let companies engage in this kind of illegal activity, we can do something about it.”

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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