Detroit Diesel to pay $28M for Clean Air violations

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a $28 million settlement with Daimler Trucks North America LLC’s Detroit Diesel Corp. on Thursday to settle lawsuits over allegations the company sold engines for heavy trucks and buses in 2010 that violated federal pollution standards.

The company, which began as a subsidiary of General Motors Co. in the 1930s, was accused of selling 7,786 heavy-duty diesel engines for use in trucks and buses in model year 2010 that weren’t cleared by the EPA under Clean Air Act standards designed to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from vehicles.

Specifically, the company was accused by federal regulators of failing to get proper certification for engines that were constructed in 2010 because they started work on the parts in 2009. Detroit Diesel said it had to ramp up production in late 2009 because of an unexpected increase in orders, then decided to finish the engines in early 2010 to avoid layoffs, based on its interpretation of the Clean Air rules.

The settlement requires Detroit Diesel to spend $14.5 million “on projects to reduce nitrogen oxide and other pollutants, including replacing high-polluting diesel school buses and locomotive engines with models that meet current emissions standards.” The company also will have to pay a $14 million fine.

“Today’s settlement protects clean air for many communities and vulnerable people across the country, including school children,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement. “EPA will continue to hold engine manufacturers accountable for meeting emissions standards that protect public health and the air we breathe.”

In the statement, Assistant Attorney General John Cruden added that, “by not certifying the engines in accordance with the rules, Detroit Diesel Corp. increased pollution and undercut competitors. We will uphold the integrity of that program by holding accountable those that skirt the rules.”

“While Detroit disagrees with the EPA’s position and was surprised to receive the EPA’s conclusion that its definition of ‘produced’ didn’t apply to our engines, to avoid litigation and stay focused on producing the most efficient engines in the market, Detroit has decided to settle with the EPA,” Brian Burton, Detroit’s General Counsel, said in a statement.

According to the EPA and DOJ, EPA certifications cover only engines produced within a single model year. By making engines in 2010 under the previous year’s rules, Detroit Diesel wouldn’t have complied with more stringent 2010 emission standards.

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Twitter: @Keith_Laing