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Cummins agrees to pay ‘largest ever’ $1.675 billion fine for allegedly installing defeat devices on engines

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Truck engine manufacturer Cummins Inc. has agreed to pay a massive fine for allegedly installing defeat devices on engines, according to federal officials.

Cummins Inc. has agreed in principle to pay the United States and State of California a $1.675 billion penalty to settle claims of violation of the Clean Air Act, according to a December 22 announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

The agreement in principle will still require court approval.

The fine is the largest ever issued for a violation of the Clean Air Act, and the second largest environmental fine issued in U.S. history, according to the DOJ.

“The company has seen no evidence that anyone acted in bad faith and does not admit wrongdoing,” Cummins Inc. said in a statement.

Officials say that Cummins “allegedly installed defeat devices on 630,000 model year 2013 to 2019 RAM 2500 and 3500 pickup truck engines. The company also allegedly installed undisclosed auxiliary emission control devices on 330,000 model year 2019 to 2023 RAM 2500 and 3500 pickup truck engines.”

Defeat devices are illegal parts or software that override or bypass a vehicles’s emissions control systems.

The Clean Air Act requires vehicle and parts manufacturers to ensure that they are in compliance with emissions standards.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland issued the following statement on the landmark Clean Air Act fine:

The Justice Department is committed to vigorously enforcing the environmental laws that protect the American people from harmful pollutants. 

Today, the Justice Department reached an initial agreement with Cummins Inc. to settle claims that, over the past decade, the company unlawfully altered hundreds of thousands of engines to bypass emissions tests in violation of the Clean Air Act. As part of the agreement, the Justice Department will require Cummins to pay $1.675 billion, the largest civil penalty we have ever secured under the Clean Air Act, and the second largest environmental penalty ever secured.

The types of devices we allege that Cummins installed in its engines to cheat federal environmental laws have a significant and harmful impact on people’s health and safety. For example, in this case, our preliminary estimates suggest that defeat devices on some Cummins engines have caused them to produce thousands of tons of excess emissions of nitrogen oxides. The cascading effect of those pollutants can, over long-term exposure, lead to breathing issues like asthma and respiratory infections.

The Justice Department will work diligently to incorporate today’s agreement into a consent decree that will be filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

I am grateful to the dedicated women and men of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, as well as to our partners from the EPA, and the State of California, for their assistance in investigating and prosecuting this case and in reaching this important agreement.

Violations of our environmental laws have a tangible impact – they inflict real harm on people in communities across the country. This historic agreement should make clear that the Justice Department will be aggressive in its efforts to hold accountable those who seek to profit at the expense of people’s health and safety.

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