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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Historic $1.6 Billion Penalty: Cummins Settles Clean Air Act Violations

In a landmark agreement, the United States, along with the state of California, has reached a preliminary settlement with Cummins, the truck engine manufacturer, on a $1.6 billion penalty. The settlement addresses allegations that Cummins violated the Clean Air Act by incorporating devices to bypass emissions controls on hundreds of thousands of engines. This penalty marks the largest ever under the Clean Air Act and the second-largest environmental penalty in U.S. history.

The accusations revolve around the installation of defeat devices by Cummins, which are components or software designed to circumvent emissions controls. By doing so, these devices enable vehicles to pass emissions inspections while emitting elevated levels of pollutants like nitrogen oxide, known to contribute to respiratory illnesses such as asthma.

The Justice Department alleges that Cummins installed defeat devices on 630,000 model year 2013 to 2019 RAM 2500 and 3500 pickup truck engines. Additionally, the company is accused of surreptitiously incorporating auxiliary emission control devices on 330,000 model year 2019 to 2023 RAM 2500 and 3500 pickup truck engines.

Attorney General Merrick Garland emphasized the tangible impact of environmental law violations, stating, “Violations of our environmental laws have a tangible impact. They inflict real harm on people in communities across the country.” Garland heralded the settlement as a clear message that the Justice Department will vigorously hold accountable those who prioritize profit over public health and safety.

In response, Cummins issued a statement asserting they had seen no evidence of bad faith and did not admit wrongdoing. The company emphasized its cooperation with regulators, extensive internal review, and collaborative efforts over more than four years. Cummins expressed anticipation in obtaining certainty as they conclude this prolonged matter.

Stellantis, the manufacturer of the trucks, has already initiated recalls for the model year 2019 trucks and begun a recall of the model year 2013 to 2018 trucks. Cummins spokesman Jon Mills clarified that the software in these trucks would be recalibrated to ensure full compliance with federal emissions law. However, the path forward for model years 2020 through 2023 remains uncertain, with Cummins stating they are actively working with regulators to address the issue.

The collaboration between the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) underscores the severity of the case. The EPA, especially since the Volkswagen scandal in 2015, has intensified investigations into illegal emissions control software. Volkswagen, found to have installed illegal devices in millions of diesel passenger cars worldwide, agreed to pay up to $14.7 billion in a consumer class-action settlement. The scandal prompted increased oversight, leading to heightened scrutiny of emissions control practices across the automotive industry.

The Cummins settlement serves as a pivotal moment in environmental enforcement, sending a resounding message about the repercussions of evading emissions controls. As the government continues to prioritize environmental protection, industries are compelled to adhere to regulations, fostering a cleaner and healthier future for communities nationwide.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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