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Cummins Inc. agrees to pay $2.1 million penalty for diesel engine Clean Air Act violations (2/23)

February 23, 2010
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Cummins Inc., a major motor vehicle engine company based in Columbus, Ind., will pay a $2.1 million penalty and recall 405 engines under a settlement agreement resolving violations of the Clean Air Act, EPA and the Justice Department announced yesterday.

According to a complaint filed simultaneously with the settlement in federal court in the District of Columbia, between 1998 and 2006, Cummins shipped more than 570,000 heavy duty diesel engines to vehicle equipment manufacturers nationwide without pollution control equipment included, in violation of the Clean Air Act. This equipment, known as exhaust after-treatment devices (ATDs), controls engine exhaust emissions once the emissions have exited the engine and entered the exhaust system. Typical ATDs include catalytic converters and diesel particulate filters.

“Reliable and effective pollution control systems are essential to protect human health and the environment from harmful engine emissions,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “These requirements are a critical part of EPA’s program to reduce air pollution and secure clean air so that all Americans can breathe easier.”

“This settlement assures that the environment suffers no ill effects because it requires that Cummins not only install the proper pollution control devices but also mitigate the effects of the harmful emissions released as a result of its actions,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Engine manufacturers must prove through testing that their engine designs meet EPA’s emissions standards and seek certificates of conformity. According to the complaint, Cummins tested the engines with the ATDs to meet the standards, but failed to include the ATDs with the engines when Cummins shipped the engines to the vehicle manufacturers. Instead, Cummins relied upon the vehicle manufacturers to purchase and install the correct ATDs. The United States alleges that the shipment of engines to vehicle manufacturers without the ATDs violates the Clean Air Act’s prohibition on the sale of engines not covered by certificates of conformity.

The settlement requires Cummins to recall approximately 405 engines that were found to have reached the ultimate consumers without the correct ATDs in order to install the correct ATDs.

EPA estimates that Cummins actions resulted in approximately 167 excess tons of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbon emissions, and 30 excess tons of particulate matter emissions over the lifetime of the non-conforming engines. Cummins will mitigate the effects of excess emissions from its non-conforming engines through permanent retirement of emission credits equal to the excess tons of pollution.

Over half the air pollutants in America come from “mobile sources” of air pollution, such as cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, construction, agricultural and lawn and garden equipment, marine vessels, outboard motors, jet skis and snowmobiles. Mobile source pollutants include smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, toxic air pollutants such as cancer-causing benzene, and particulate matter or “soot.” These pollutants are responsible for asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

The State of California Air Resources Board will receive $420,000 of the civil penalty under a separate settlement agreement with Cummins, continuing a federal government practice of sharing civil penalties with states that participate in clean air enforcement actions.

The Cummins settlement was lodged today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period.

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