22 October 1998

The US federal government announced on October 22 that seven manufacturers of diesel truck engines agreed to a record environmental deal exceeding $1 billion to settle charges they illegally polluted the air.

The agreement resolved allegations that the engines in as many as 1.3 million trucks built over the last 10 years had devices that defeated pollution controls. Those allegations were related to excessive nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions during highway driving that were not occurring during the engine certification testing. The engine electronic control module would switch to those fuel-efficient, but high NOx, operation modes during highway driving. Federal officials considered such engine control software “defeat devices”, which are illegal under the federal laws.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Justice Department the settlement covered Caterpillar Inc., Cummins Engine Co. Inc., Navistar International Corp., the Detroit Diesel Corp., Mack Trucks, its corporate parent Renault SA, and Volvo. Under the settlement, the companies will spend more than $1 billion for corrective action, future improvements and the fines.

The US Attorney General Janet Reno said, “The companies that dominate this single industry are coming together to correct their environmental violations. It is the largest settlement in the history of the Clean Air Act.”

“The diesel engine industry has illegally poured millions of tons of pollution into the air. It's time for the industry to clean up its act and clean up our air,” Reno added.

The involved diesel engine makers maintained they did nothing wrong.

“Our engines have never employed any type of device to evade EPA guidelines,” Caterpillar Vice President Sid Banwart said. “Our engines have always been in compliance with the Clean Air Act and EPA emissions regulations.”

Navistar International Corp. said it also believed its engines complied with the law, but that the settlement was “the appropriate way to avoid an argument with the EPA and get this issue behind us.”

Similar statements were issued by Detroit Diesel, Cummins and Mack.

The manufacturers said they will spend at least $850 million to introduce cleaner new engines, rebuild older engines to make sure they give off fewer emissions, recall pickup trucks that have the devices and conduct new emissions testing. They also will spend $109 million for additional environmental projects, such as the development of new emission-control technologies. The civil penalty amount to $83 million.

Carol Browner, the EPA administrator, declined comment on whether there was a criminal investigation, separate from the civil settlement. She also defended the decision not to order a recall for large trucks, saying the devices would be replaced as engines are rebuilt, typically over a three-year period.

As a part of the agreement, the manufacturers have agreed to meet emissions standards originally set for 2004 in October of 2002, 15 months sooner than required. The agreement is expected to reduce nitrogen oxide emission from diesel engines by one-third in five years.

The settlement was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C.

Source: US EPA