EPA Reaches Settlements with Midwest Automotive Companies for Emission Defeat Device Violations

On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the resolution of three enforcement actions against companies that installed or sold illegal “defeat devices” in vehicle engines designed to disable emissions controls. The Midwest defendants are two diesel repair shops, Banghart Diesel Performance of Wahoo, Nebraska and Black Widow Diesel of Center Point, Iowa, and online retailer Voodoo Diesel of Raymore, Missouri.

The settlements require the companies to pay, collectively, $86,000 in civil penalties, demolish their inventories of defeat device components, and verify that they have stopped selling or installing devices that render vehicle emission controls inoperable.

The problem with aftermarket defeat devices, the EPA explains, is the release of significantly higher volumes of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. According to an agency study, known sales of defeat devices for certain diesel trucks between 2009 and 2020 resulted in more than 570,000 tons of excess nitrogen oxides and 5,000 tons of excess particulate matter over the lifetime of the trucks.

In terms of public health impact, studies correlate diesel exhaust to increased incidence of lung cancer, the announcement said, citing occurrence of the disease as one of several resultant public health problems in the United States. Others reportedly include “premature mortality, aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, aggravation of existing asthma, acute respiratory symptoms, chronic bronchitis, and decreased lung function.” 

The action, brought pursuant to Title II of the Clean Air Act which authorizes the EPA to set standards applicable to emissions from a variety of vehicles and engines, comes as part of one of the agency’s national compliance initiatives. It is one of several recent settlements the environmental oversight body has prosecuted with companies that either manufacture, install, or sell aftermarket defeat devices.