EPA Crackdown on Vehicle Emission 'Defeat Devices' Includes WA Company

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a series of settlements with companies in five states, including Washington, that illegally sold “defeat devices” that altered emission control systems on vehicles.

In an Aug. 24 news release, EPA said Competition Specialties Inc. of Auburn, WA, paid a $225,368 penalty for selling 227 parts or components between 2018 and 2020 which allowed for the removal of vehicle emission control components.

An even larger penalty of $265,000 was levied against Diamond Eye Manufacturing Inc. of Athena, OR. The company was accused of selling 33,134 parts between 2017-19 that compromised emission control components. As part of the settlement, Diamond Eye destroyed its inventory of illegal parts, notified customers of the agreement with EPA, and no longer provides technical support or honors warranty claims for the illegal parts. The company will also post an announcement of the settlement on its website for eight weeks, EPA said.

Other companies accused of violations, such as removal of catalytic converters, and their penalties were Maxon Performance Parts Corp. of Pennsauken, NJ ($30,000) and, from California, Maxon Auto Corp. of Chino ($120,000), Remus Technology Inc. of Emeryville ($40,000), SHJY Trading Corp. of Walnut ($15,000), and WX Trading Corp. of Walnut ($15,000). Collectively, SHJY and WX Trading sold more than 2,900 parts that allowed for removal of emission control devices, EPA said.

Except for Competition Specialties Inc., the companies each paid or will pay reduced penalties because of a demonstrated inability to pay higher amounts, the agency said.

Authorities say products that “defeat” manufacturer-compliant emissions systems result in vehicles spewing increased nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter which pose known threats to public health and violate the federal Clean Air Act.

“Defeat devices enable more air pollution from vehicles to the detriment of Americans’ health, and EPA is vigilant about holding accountable the entities that sell these illegal products,” said Martha Guzman, EPA’s Pacific Southwest regional administrator.

According to a study by EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, illegally modified diesel trucks built after 2009 and before 2020 generated more than 570,000 tons of excess NOx and 5,000 tons of excess particulate matter during the lifetime of the trucks.

EPA also cited another recent enforcement actions for violations of the Clean Air Act.

An Idaho man agreed to pay $1 million in criminal fines and may face up to two years in prison after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court in Pocatello as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors, according to an EPA news release. The defendant, Barry Pierce, is owner of two diesel performance retail outlets, GDP Tuning LLC and Custom Auto of Rexburg LLC, doing business as Gorilla Performance. He is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 8.

According to court documents, GDP Tuning and Pierce conspired with others to sell tens of thousands of tuning devices and software which tampered with vehicles’ on-board diagnostic systems. Such OBD systems normally detect altered emissions control equipment and produce a “check engine” light on the dashboard. If not remedied, some vehicles go into “limp mode” and limit maximum speed to 5 mph---an incentive to get the vehicle repaired. The illegal tampering devices and software bypass such controls.

“The defendants in this case purposefully violated laws that protect air quality and the overall quality of life for Idahoans, especially vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly and those who suffer from respiratory conditions,” said U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit for the District of Idaho. “My office will continue to partner with law enforcement agencies to prosecute those who seek illegal profits at the expense the public’s health and our shared environment.”

EPA also cited enforcement actions in California and New Jersey. 

We thank The Center Square for reprint permission.

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