Two trucking companies and four individuals have been sentenced for violating the Clean Air Act by "deleting" emissions controls on trucks after initially being charged in April.
Accurate Truck Service, LLC and Griffin Transport, both from Grand Rapids, Michigan, were ordered to pay a combined maximum fine of $1 million, or $500,000 each, and to serve a year of probation. Diesel Freak and its owner, Ryan Lalone, as well as employee Wade Lalone -- also charged in April -- are scheduled for sentencing on Dec. 11.
The owners of Griffin, Craig Scholten and Ryan Bos, were each fined $6,000 and sentenced to a four-month term of home detention as a portion of their one-year probation sentence. Accurate owner Douglas Larsen was also fined $7,500 and given a one-year probation sentence with two months of house arrest. Another individual, Scott DeKock, who owned a separate company involved in the scheme, was fined $10,000 and given one year of probation.
The felony convictions for the corporate entities came after the defendants pleaded guilty.
Accurate's website describes Larsen as starting a diesel repair shop, and the Griffin team merged with it in 2008. Accurate "has 20 repair bays, a transmission shop, a body shop and a paint shop." Griffin's latest filing on FMCSA's Safer website shows it has 62 power units and 65 drivers.
“This case is one of the largest of its kind ever charged in the United States, and today’s sentences send a loud and clear message that polluters who break environmental laws will be held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Mark A. Totten, likely referring to the maximum fine imposed on the two companies. “Environmental rules safeguard the water we drink, the lakes we fish, and the air we breathe. It’s critical that we protect our people and our planet from harmful pollutants.”
According to a press release from Totten's Western District of Michigan office, Accurate Truck Service "removed or altered the hardware components of trucks with heavy-duty diesel engines," while Diesel Freak "reprogrammed the engine computers of the trucks so that they would continue to function even after the hardware was removed or altered."
The process, known as an "emissions delete," can "improve performance and fuel economy and save maintenance costs, but also causes significant detrimental environmental impacts," the press release added. "Diesel Freak LLC was involved in at least 362 deletions; Accurate Truck Service, LLC, in at least 83 deletions; Griffin Transportation, Inc., in at least 12 deletions; and DeKock’s former company in at least four deletions.".
Acting Special Agent in Charge Lisa Matovic, with U.S. EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, emphasized diesel exhaust's role in respiratory illnesses and generally poor air quality, which she said “the defendants in this case ignored in favor of financial profit. The sentencings in this case show that EPA and our law enforcement partners will hold accountable individuals who disregard health and environmental laws designed to protect our communities from dangerous air pollution.”