From: Elisa L. Rineheart, Grand Forks Herald, N.D.
Published October 13, 2004 12:00 AM

Artic Cat Displays New Cleaner Snowmobiles During Interior Secretary's Tour

Oct. 13—THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn. — Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton visited Arctic Cat here Tuesday as part of a regional tour to check the progress of snowmobile manufacturers in complying with EPA's stricter environmental standards.


Norton said she was pleased with what she saw and praised Arctic Cat for having the vision to produce environmentally friendly snowmobiles even before it was required by law.


"There are 100 million acres of wilderness in the U.S. that must be protected, but also enjoyed," she said. "It's about land use and finding the right use in the right places. Four-stroke snowmobiles are the embodiment of that balance."


The new environmental regulation is designed to reduce pollution from off-road vehicles. And it is expected to decrease hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions by 30 percent by 2006, EPA officials said.


By then, 50 percent of Arctic Cat's total fleet will be required to comply with the new standards. Full conversion is expected by 2010, Arctic Cat executives said.


National parks will experience an even higher pollution reduction in 2012, when hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide standards will be even stricter, EPA representatives said.


Best tech Norton also presented Arctic Cat with this year's certificate of Best Available Technology issued by Yellowstone National Park.


The certificate dictates which snowmobiles are allowed to run in the park. Arctic Cat's 2005 model T660 Touring four-stroke passed this season's test.


Arctic Cat's commitment to making a quieter, significantly cleaner sled has earned it the distinction of Best Available Technology for the past three years, officials said.


"Snowmobiles are more than a means of recreation. Park rangers and other dedicated personnel caring for parks depend on snowmobiles during the winter," Norton said. "The National Park Service has a fleet of more than 250 snowmobiles, and they're used in two dozen units in the National Park System."


The new environmentally friendlier engine reduces hydrocarbon emissions by 90 percent, carbon monoxide by 70 percent and brings sound levels at full throttle down to 73 decibels, Norton said.


"We were the first ones to produce a commercially available four-stroke snowmobile," said Christopher Twomey, chairman and chief executive, adding that the new model surpasses EPA's 2012 standards.


Arctic Cat started developing four-stroke sleds in 1996, said Roger Skime, vice president of engineering.


"We wanted to meet clients' requests for less noisy and polluting machines," he said.


The first batch of 50 snowmobiles was produced and sent to Yellowstone for revision in 2000. A year later, Arctic Cat started its full commercial production.


Reducing noise levels, one of the achievements the company is most proud of, was not an easy task, Twomey said.


But, today, the company has patented applications for less noisy tracks and a $2 million Noise Vibration and Harshness facility that measures the impact of the vehicle's noise on its drivers and on the environment.


To see more of the Grand Forks Herald, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.grandforks.com.© 2004, Grand Forks Herald, N.D. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.


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