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April 25, 2019

Deere agrees to pay $1 million over air quality violations

State alleges Cedar Falls center violated limits on four pollutants for 12-13 years

Des Moines — Deere & Co. has agreed to pay $1 million for violating air quality standards over a 12- to- 13-year period at its diesel-engine testing center in Cedar Falls.

Chief District Judge Kellyann M. Lekar entered a consent decree Thursday in Black Hawk County. As part of the decree, Deere also agreed to conduct annual environmental audits by a third party for at least three years and until they receive two consecutive audit reports with no or minimal violations. The company would be required to correct any violations in a timely manner.

In a petition, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources alleged that Deere had failed to comply with emissions limits in 80 construction permits at its Performance Engineering Center; had operated without proper air quality permits in some cases; had provided inaccurate information to the DNR from 2005 to 2016 on compliance reports; and had violated emissions limits on carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter from 2005 until 2018.

Deere agreed not to contest the allegations as part of the settlement with the state.

The Environmental Protection Commission voted to refer the matter to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office in 2018.

“Deere’s violations went on far too long,” Attorney General Tom Miller said. “Even after the violations were discovered, the company continued to exceed emissions limits while it sought revised construction permits from the DNR to address its noncompliance.”  

In 2016, Deere met with the DNR to discuss obtaining permits to allow the company to test larger engines. The DNR discovered that Deere had been providing incorrect information and violating emissions limits since 2006. The Performance Engineering Center’s emissions permits were based on the assumption that Deere would use lower-emitting engines, but in reality it used higher-emitting engines that emitted more nitrogen oxides.

Nitrogen oxides can damage the lining of the lungs and worsen conditions such as asthma and bronchitis.

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