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Cummins penalized for Clean Air Act violations

24 February 2010

The US Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Cummins agreed to pay a $2.1 million penalty and recall 405 engines under a settlement agreement resolving alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.

According to a complaint filed in court simultaneously with the settlement, between 1998 and 2006 Cummins shipped more than 570,000 heavy-duty diesel engines to vehicle manufacturers without emission aftertreatment devices (ATD) included, which was alleged to be in violation of the Clean Air Act. The ATDs included catalytic converters and diesel particulate filters.

Cummins tested the engines with the ATDs to meet the emission standards, but did not include the ATDs with the engines when the engines were shipped to vehicle manufacturers. Instead of shipping the emission aftertreatment equipment with the engine, Cummins relied upon the vehicle manufacturers to purchase and install the correct ATDs. According to the complaint, 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.

In 405 instances—representing 0.07% of the engines shipped—Cummins did not have the proper documentation to show that the required ATDs were indeed matched to the engine by the vehicle manufacturer. Under the settlement, Cummins will recall these 405 engines.

EPA estimated that Cummins actions resulted in approximately 167 excess tons of NOx and HC emissions, and 30 excess tons of PM emissions over the lifetime of the non-conforming engines. Under the settlement, Cummins will loose emission credits equal to these excess tons of pollution.

It remains unclear what triggered the complaint against Cummins and whether other manufacturers might be also affected. Shipping engines without emission aftertreatment devices was common in the heavy-duty engine and vehicle industry. The practice simplified the logistics as the ATDs are often integrated with the vehicle’s exhaust system rather than directly with the engine. Handling aftertreatment components that mechanically are not a part of the engine by engine manufacturers would unnecessarily increase the engine cost for the end user.

The loss of NOx emission credits may potentially affect Cummins’ 2010 and later engine emission strategy. Thanks to the credits, Cummins was able to certify their 2010 engines above the regulatory NOx emission limit to achieve a certain fuel economy benefit.

The state of California Air Resources Board will receive $420,000 of the civil penalty under a separate settlement agreement with Cummins. The Cummins settlement was lodged in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period.

Source: US Department of Justice