The EPA-enforced Clean Air Act requires gas-guzzling engines of all kinds to pass muster in terms of emissions standards. But both environmental regulators and customs officials say too many illegal engines and vehicles are being imported into the country.
Between June and September in 2014, inspectors from the Environmental Protection Agency and Customs and Border Protection stopped 62 shipments at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California -- confiscating a total of 730 foreign-made engines found to be without proper pollution control mechanisms. Some of the engines were found to have leaky fuel tanks, while others had faulty exhaust pipes and valves.
The confiscated vehicles and machinery included motorcycles, gas generators, ATVs, go-karts, lawnmowers, outboard motors and more.
"Small engines mean big emissions, so we have to be extra vigilant when allowing their entry into our country," Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest, explained in a news release. "This initiative marks a new chapter in our efforts to prevent air pollution from vehicles and engines."
Just eight companies were responsible for the 730 confiscated items. Those companies will face a total of $57,000 in fines, most just paying a few thousand dollars as first time-offenders. All of the responsible companies are located in Asia, with the majority of confiscated engines having been manufactured in China.
Had officials not caught the offending vehicles, the EPA estimates that an extra 350,000 pounds of pollutants would have been emitted into the atmosphere each year.
"This was only three months," Jaime Ruiz, a CBP spokesman, told the Long Beach Press Telegram. "What if we did this every day? We could be stopping dozens of irregularities at the seaport."
EPA and CBP officials have promised, moving forward, to ramp up efforts to stop in the importation of illegal engines.