In a recent development in the fight against the effects of diesel emissions on the environment, two Michigan-based companies have been fined a staggering $10 million for the sale of diesel defeat devices. The companies are accused of intentionally misleading regulators and customers by selling illegal devices, which were found to emit more pollutants than legally allowed.
Emissions regulations are among the most critical measures in the fight against climate change and air pollution. Governments worldwide have set strict standards for vehicle emissions, especially for diesel engines, known to emit high levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM). However, some manufacturers and suppliers have been found to circumvent these regulations using defeat devices – software or hardware mechanisms that manipulate the emission levels during testing and certification.
The use of defeat devices became a widespread issue in 2015, with the revelation that Volkswagen (VW) had installed them in millions of its diesel cars globally. The scandal, now known as ‘Dieselgate’, resulted in billions of dollars in fines, lawsuits, and recalls for the German automaker and sparked increased scrutiny of emissions compliance across the industry. Since then, regulators and enforcement agencies have been vigilant in detecting and punishing other offenders, resulting in several high-profile cases and penalties.
Other well-known carmakers are facing similar accusations. For example, Renault’s involvement in the diesel emission scandal highlighted the lack of transparency and efficiency in enforcing regulations. A French court has formally accused the company of deceiving authorities during a diesel emissions investigation that began in 2017. The investigation primarily targeted the company’s older vehicles and alleged test manipulations. To learn more about Dieselgate, please click here.
Two companies, Diesel Ops LLC and Orion Diesel LLC, owned by Nicholas Piccolo, have been fined by the Detroit federal district court for using diesel emissions ‘defeat devices’. This action is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) nationwide efforts to combat such violations. In addition to the fines, Piccolo himself has been fined nearly $1.46 million for ignoring information requests from federal authorities and attempting to hide assets once the EPA issued violation notices. The court filings reveal that the EPA had instructed Piccolo since 2018 to cease manufacturing, sales, and installation of components that disable or bypass emission controls.
Diesel Ops and Orion Diesel offered ‘delete kits’ and other hardware and software specifically designed for Ford Powerstroke and Dodge Cummins engines. Once the EPA started requesting information and issuing violation notices, Diesel Ops conducted an online ‘fire sale’. They transferred approximately $979,818 worth of assets to Piccolo in an alleged attempt to conceal money.
The U.S. Justice Department filed its complaint in December and sought a default judgment in July. On August 29, U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood issued a judgment against Piccolo and his companies in the U.S. District Court in Detroit. As part of the judgment, Hood has banned Piccolo from making any future sales or installations of such equipment.
The Michigan company’s penalty is one of the largest ever imposed for the sale of defeat devices, highlighting the offence’s severity and the regulators’ determination to enforce emissions regulations. The fine sends a strong message to other potential offenders that the consequences of non-compliance can be severe and costly. It also strengthens the trust of consumers, who rely on the accuracy and authenticity of manufacturers’ emissions data and products.
The case also raises concerns about the quality and safety of goods sourced from overseas suppliers, particularly from countries with lower environmental and labour standards. The incident underscores the importance of transparency and accountability throughout the supply chain to prevent non-compliant and harmful products from reaching the market.
The EPA Region 5 Administrator, Debra Shore, firmly asserts that the decision to take action sends a clear signal that installing and selling such devices on engines will not be accepted. She highlights the significance of emission control systems on cars in safeguarding public health by minimising pollution. The EPA is dedicated to guaranteeing that companies abide by the Clean Air Act.
The Clean Air Act is a crucial federal law that effectively controls air pollution in the United States. It sets limits on the amount of pollutants that can be emitted from mobile and stationary sources. Companies violating the Act will suffer several consequences, including legal and financial repercussions. It can result in fines, penalties, and civil suits that seek to recover damages caused by the violation. Companies that break the law may also face criminal charges, which can result in imprisonment.
The consequences of violating the Clean Air Act extend beyond legal action. Companies that violate the Act can harm the environment and public health. Air pollution caused by industrial activities can lead to respiratory problems, heart disease, and lung cancer. These pollutants also severely impact the environment, leading to climate change and the destruction of ecosystems.