EPA cracks down on emission system ‘defeat devices’

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced action taken against several diesel shops for violations of the federal Clean Air Act related to installing or selling illegal “defeat devices” to get around emissions control systems.

In an Aug. 30 press release, EPA announced it had fined three companies. Central Iowa Truck Repair of Boone, Iowa, will pay a civil penalty of $95,371; R.T.R. Roger’s Truck Repair of Fenton, Missouri, will pay $46,316; and Husker Diesel Inc. of Gretna, Nebraska, will pay $60,150.

“Modifying auto emissions controls is illegal, contributes significantly to harmful air pollution, and makes it harder to meet air quality standards,” said David Cozad, director of EPA Region 7’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division. “These illegal practices exacerbate the effects of pollution in already overburdened communities.”

As part of their settlements with EPA, all three companies agreed to demolish their inventories of defeat device components and certified that they stopped selling or installing devices that disable vehicle emission controls.

R.T.R. Roger’s Truck Repair and Husker Diesel are in communities that are already disproportionately affected by pollution, EPA noted. Additionally, R.T.R. Roger’s Truck Repair is in St. Louis County, which is an ozone non-attainment area, meaning that it does not meet the Clean Air Act national ambient air quality standard for ozone.

EPA also won a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan, which awarded a default judgment, granting a proposed $10 million civil penalty against DieselOps LLC and Orion Diesel LLC of Waterford, Michigan. The violations the United States identified in its December 2021 complaint against the companies included the manufacture, sale and installation of aftermarket “defeat devices” designed to disable or bypass required vehicle emissions controls.

The court also granted the proposed $455,925 civil penalty against the owner of the two companies, Nicholas Piccolo, for failing to respond to an information request issued pursuant to the Clean Air Act and entered a judgment against Piccolo of slightly less than $1 million for alleged fraudulent transfers in violation of the Federal Debt Collection Procedures Act. The court also issued a permanent injunction against future sales of defeat devices against all of the defendants.

“This action sends a strong message that selling and installing defeat devices on vehicles and engines will not be tolerated,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Debra Shore. “Emission control systems on vehicles are designed to protect public health by reducing pollution, which is why EPA is committed to ensuring that companies comply with the Clean Air Act.”

Additionally, on Sept. 2, EPA announced that the Department of Justice had filed a civil judicial complaint on EPA's behalf against River City Diesel LLC, RCD Performance LLC, and Midwest Truck and 4WD Center LLC (collectively RCD) and Joshua Davis, of East Peoria, Illinois, for manufacturing, selling and installing aftermarket "defeat devices."

DOJ is seeking monetary civil penalties and injunctive relief in its complaint to prevent RCD from manufacturing, selling or installing the defeat devices. The complaint also alleges that RCD transferred assets to Joshua Davis in violation of the Federal Debt Collection Procedures Act.

[Related: Five sentenced for roles in disabling emissions control devices]

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