EPA Doubles Down on Prohibition of Emissions Defeat Devices

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Tampering on off- and on-road emissions control systems is illegal and there are hefty fines levied for violations, according to an enforcement alert issued by the EPA in December.

The agency also issued an updated tampering policy in November.

In the alert, EPA cites the $2 million fine it levied against Rockwater Northeast, a Pennsylvania-based hauling service and a related $2.3 million fine on Select Energy Solutions, a Texas-based successor in interest to Rockwater.

In that case, six people were charged with conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act by using aftermarket defeat devices on about 30 heavy-duty trucks. The case also resulted in one defendant being sentenced in February 2020 to a six-month prison sentence.

EPA says it’s also going after the manufacturers of defeat devices.

Last year Deltona, Florida-based Punch It Performance and Tuning, Michael Paul Schimmack and affiliated companies and individuals were fined $850,000 for manufacturing and selling pickup truck products that altered engine performance and enable the removal of filters, catalysts, and other critical emissions controls.

This follows the 2019 $1.1 million judgment against Performance Diesel, which EPA says sold least 5,549 aftermarket defeat devices for heavy-duty diesel engines.

Companies ignoring tampering bans

In the alert EPA says it remains concerned about companies “continuing to ignore the prohibitions against tampering in section 203(a)(3) the Clean Air Act and 40 C.F.R.§§ 1068.101(b)” and points out it has resolved more than 70 tampering cases in the past five years.

The Clean Air Act requires vehicle and engine manufacturers to demonstrate their products do not exceed applicable emission limits and prohibits anyone from manufacturing, selling or installing any part or component that bypasses or defeats emissions controls.

These requirements mean that OEM-installed emissions-related parts and design elements must not be changed, including those in off-road equipment and engines.

Emission-related parts include on-board diagnostic systems; diagnostic trouble codes; sensors for oxygen, oxides of nitrogen, ammonia, particulate matter, urea quality, and exhaust gas temperature; diesel particulate filters and their sensors; exhaust gas recirculation systems; diesel oxidation catalysts; selective catalytic reduction systems; and NOx adsorber catalyst systems.

Also included are engine calibrations that affect engine combustion — such as fuel ignition or ignition timing, injection pattern and fuel injection pressure — and any other EPA emissions regulation compliant part, device, or element of design installed on certified vehicles or engines.

Manufacture, sell or install

In addition to the OEM requirements, the Clean Air Act makes it a violation for any person to manufacture or sell, or install any part or component intended to bypass, defeat, or render inoperative any regulated emissions-control component.

For off-road vehicles and engines, the EPA regulations are the same as for on-road vehicles.

In addition, several states have prohibitions on tampering and using aftermarket defeat devices.

As of January 13, 2020, the maximum civil penalty for manufacturing, selling or installing defeat devices was $4,819 per device. There may be significantly higher fines for a dealer or vehicle manufacturer who tampers with a vehicle, EPA says.

EPA also notes installing a defeat device can void manufacturer warranties and cause a machine to not be covered by insurance.