United States Awards $10 Million Default Judgment and Permanent Injunction Against Two Michigan Companies and Their Owner for the Sale of Vehicle Emission “Defeat Devices”
On Aug. 29, the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan awarded a default judgment, granting the proposed $10 million civil penalty against Diesel Ops LLC and Orion Diesel LLC of Waterford, Michigan. The violations the United States identified in its December 2021 complaint included the manufacture, sale and installation of aftermarket parts known as “defeat devices” designed to disable or bypass required vehicle emissions controls.
The court also granted the proposed $455,925 civil penalty against the owner of the two companies, Nicholas Piccolo, for failing to respond to an information request issued pursuant to Section 208 of the Clean Air Act and entered a judgment against Piccolo of slightly less than $1 million for alleged fraudulent transfers in violation of the Federal Debt Collection Procedures Act. The court entered a permanent injunction against future sales of defeat devices against all of the defendants.
“Defeat devices violate Clean Air Act emissions requirements that protect public health and the environment, including by protecting vulnerable communities that are disproportionately impacted by air pollution,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). “The United States will vigorously enforce the Clean Air Act, including its prohibition of illegal devices that bypass emission controls and harm the environment and public health.”
“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made it a priority to stop the manufacture, sale and installation of defeat devices, because they result in illegal and harmful emissions that continue over the life of the vehicle,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This case shows that EPA and our law enforcement partners will hold responsible those who illegally profit from defeat devices.”
“This action sends a strong message that selling and installing defeat devices on vehicles and engines will not be tolerated,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Debra Shore. “Emission control systems on vehicles are designed to protect public health by reducing pollution, which is why EPA is committed to ensuring that companies comply with the Clean Air Act.”
As a result of EPA’s efforts to improve air quality and fuel efficiency, cars and trucks manufactured today emit far less pollution than older vehicles. To meet EPA's emission standards, engine manufacturers have carefully calibrated their engines and installed sophisticated emissions control systems. EPA testing has shown that aftermarket defeat devices can increase vehicle emissions substantially, which can contribute to a variety of public health problems typically associated with exposure to air pollution. These health effects can include premature death in people with heart or lung disease, heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function and respiratory symptoms such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing. This enforcement action is one of more than 40 civil enforcement cases initiated by EPA and the Justice Department as part of the National Compliance Initiative for Stopping Aftermarket Defeat Devices for Vehicles and Engines: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/national-compliance-initiative-stopping-aftermarket-defeat-devices-vehicles-and-engines.
Because defeat devices contribute excess dirty emissions to communities located adjacent to highways and freight facilities, EPA regards halting the manufacture, sale, offering for sale and installation of defeat devices as key issues in working toward environmental justice.