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Compliance and Enforcement Annual Results FY2008:
Imports Safety

FY2008 Annual Results Topics

EPA’s Enforcement Program continues to address the illegal importation of noncompliant goods into the United States by bringing enforcement actions against importers and others; providing compliance assistance to manufacturers, importers and brokers; and working with other governments, agencies and stakeholders to prevent and reduce risks of unsafe products entering our country. 

Clean Air Act Enforcement

Over the last four years, there has been a surge in the number of imported motor vehicles, motor vehicle engines, and non-road equipment such as motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, minitrucks, tractors, lawn mowers, generators and other small engines.  A large percentage of the imported vehicles and engines do not meet EPA certification requirements under the Clean Air Act (CAA).  Uncertified engines can emit air pollutants at levels as much as 30% above EPA standards, which  is of concern because nearly 90% of the carbon monoxide pollution and half of the components that cause ozone pollution in the United States is produced by on-road and off-road mobile sources.  This air pollution contributes to respiratory illnesses and other adverse health effects. 

EPA has brought a number of enforcement cases against importers of uncertified equipment.  In addition, working with the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), EPA is targeting the largest importers of uncertified engines and vehicles and has initiated several enforcement cases against some of these large importers.  In fiscal year 2008, 49 enforcement actions were taken by EPA and CBP to stop engines and equipment that do not comply with the CAA from entering the United States, including a settlement in with a Taiwanese manufacturer and three American corporations concerning 200,000 chainsaws imported into the United States that failed to meet federal air pollution standards.  The companies agreed to pay a $2 million civil penalty and take various actions to mitigate and correct the excess emissions caused by the illegal equipment. 

EPA also started working with retailers to make them aware that they are now liable for causing the importation of noncompliant equipment. EPA is providing compliance assistance to importers, by training CBP personnel and brokers so that they understand EPA requirements, and by posting pertinent information on the internet.   For example, importers are able to find information that links to EPA’s importation requirements on a "Border Center” Web siteExit EPA Disclaimer .

Consistent with the CAA and our international obligations under the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS), EPA has both civil and criminal authorities for taking action against substances that harm human health and the environment by depleting ozone in the upper atmosphere.  EPA's enforcement authorities include taking actions against persons who continue to sell and distribute banned ODS.  

In 2005-2006, based on tips from domestic novelty businesses and Customs officials, EPA learned about and acted on imported aerosol confetti string products containing banned substances as propellants.  The banned substances were cheaper than legal alternatives.  Following EPA's 2006 action ordering five national retailers to pull millions of banned products from their shelves and destroy them properly, additional administrative enforcement orders were issued to national retailers in 2007 and 2008 and investigations are ongoing for other imports of illegal hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).  For example, in 2008, EPA announced a settlement with Wal-Mart addressing the distribution and sale of party string products containing banned substances as propellants.  Wal-Mart paid a civil judicial penalty of $199,000 and took action to come into compliance and ensure that such violations do not recur. 

There have also been increasing numbers of illegal importations of HCFCs from China through ports in the South, mostly, involving larger canisters of HCFCs to be used for air conditioning/refrigeration purposes.  Many have entered the country, evading CBP protective efforts, but now that we have worked with CBP to catch these violators, many more have been prevented from entering the country.  In most instances, CBP has ordered the HCFCs to be re-exported out of the US.  EPA is pursuing civil enforcement actions for penalties and injunctive relief.  Investigations are also underway on several criminal cases.

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Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Enforcement

EPA brought enforcement actions related to import safety under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act in FY 200 8.  Except under certain limited circumstances (for example, for research purposes), it is illegal to sell or distribute pesticides that have not been reviewed and registered for use by EPA or that are not in compliance with the terms of their EPA registrations.  EPA’s enforcement program addresses the illegal importation of noncompliant pesticides and pesticide devices by bringing enforcement actions against importers and associated distributors; providing compliance assistance to manufacturers, importers and brokers; and working with other governments, agencies, and stakeholders to prevent and reduce risks of unsafe products entering the United States.

Illegal pesticide imports include a wide range of products, such as naphthalene mothballs and related products (moth tablets, clothes hangers and urinal cakes), chlorine pool disinfectants, insecticidal chalk, roach killers, mosquito coils and rat poisons.  Some cases have involved the use of highly toxic pesticides (registered for agricultural use only) in homes, where children are particularly at risk. 

EPA stepped up pesticide import inspections at border crossings and other ports of entry, and conducted sweeps and educational campaigns in urban neighborhoods that are at high risk for using illegal imports.  Noncompliant imports, when identified prior to or at the time of arrival, are denied entry at the border or port, further ensuring that these dangerous products do not get into our homes.  

Products that do not meet EPA regulations that have managed to elude detection at arrival but are subsequently discovered in the market place can be placed under a Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order (SSURO) until disposed of; returned to the country of origin or brought into compliance.  Penalties may also be assessed against importers of such products.    In FY 2008, EPA’s Region 10 issued import related SSUROs to Sutera LLC, MA of North America, Lonza LTD, and Woodstream Corp.  It is estimated that these SSUROs prevented 3.8 million pounds of pollutants from entering the United States.

Also in FY 200 8, EPA enforcement actions resulting in penalties of more than $1,000,000 were issued for import violations against more than 20 companies involving unregistered and/or misbranded pesticide products such as herbicides and insecticides. These cases included penalty actions against: DuPont/Griffin ($877,500); Arysta LifeScience North America, L.L.C. ($6,500); Nichino America, Inc. ($6,500); Sojitz Corporation of American ($6,500).

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Interagency Working Group on Import Safety

Recognizing the need to ensure the safety of imports entering the United States, on July 18, 2007, President Bush created an Interagency Working Group on Import Safety.  Participating federal agencies, including EPA, were charged with reviewing our authorities and practices related to imports, and identifying opportunities for improvement.  On November 6, 2007, the Working Group presented to the President a final Action Plan that provides for short- and long-term recommendations to protect consumers by enhancing the safety of imports into the United States.  The Import Safety Action Plan Update was released July 1, 2008, and outlines steps taken by the federal government, private sector and international partners since November 2007 to bolster import safety. This effort is consistent with EPA’s longtime commitment to prevent and reduce the risks of illegal imports.   Among other efforts, EPA will continue working with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to ensure that all reports and certifications required to be sent to EPA are fully integrated in the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) -- the U.S.'s one-stop electronic filing system for imports and exports.  ACE will incorporate all other government agencies’ declaration forms, and can provide information crucial to assess compliance and determine the need for enforcement.  

EPA will continue to share its scientific expertise and regulatory standards to help our trading partners facilitate the trade of safe and compliant products and otherwise support the broader goal of protecting public health and the environment.  An example of this is EPA’s efforts to put in place with China an MOU, signed on December 13, 2007, for ensuring cooperation regarding product imports and exports between the U.S. and China to prevent and correct noncompliance.  EPA coordinates with CBP to support  its efforts to more effectively identify imports that violate U.S. standards, and EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance is working with environmental and law enforcement agencies in Canada and Mexico to determine how information about noncompliant or suspect imports can be shared appropriately between our countries.  In May 2008, the United States adopted the public version of an electronic training module, the North American Development of Enforcement Training to Ensure Legal imports of Ozone Depleting Substances, which has been placed on the Commission for Environmental Cooperation Web site.Exit EPA Disclaimer   Mexico and Canada have similar versions of the ODS training module, appropriately reflecting their laws and authorities.  Work is proceeding next on a hazardous waste training module.   EPA also actively works with domestic and foreign trade groups who may be impacted by noncompliant imports within their sector.

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