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Cummins to recall 600,000 vehicles in emissions defeat device scandal, penalty rises to ‘largest-ever’ $2 billion

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This week, authorities revealed new details on the settlement reached with diesel engine-maker Cummins in a massive emissions defeat device scandal.

On January 10, 2024, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) shared new information on the Cummins settlement over accusations that the company “allegedly installed defeat devices on 630,000 model year 2013 to 2019 RAM 2500 and 3500 pickup truck engines. Authorities say that 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.

On December 22, 2023, officials announced that Cummins 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. The Clean Air Act requires vehicle and parts manufacturers to ensure that they are in compliance with emissions standards.

The fine was already 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, but now officials say that Cummins is also facing a $325 million fee for pollution remedies, which will bring the total monetary penalty up to approximately $2 billion.

Additionally, about 600,000 Ram trucks will be recalled and repaired as part of the settlement at no cost to vehicle owners.

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

“Cummins knowingly harmed people’s health and our environment when they skirted state emissions tests and requirements,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Today’s settlement sends a clear message: If you break the law, we will hold you accountable. I want to thank our federal and state partners for their collective work on this settlement that will safeguard public health and protect consumers across the country.”

“The collaboration between California and its federal partners makes it clear that companies will be held accountable for violating essential environmental laws that are in place to provide the clean air that communities across California and the nation want and deserve,” said CARB Executive Officer Dr. Steven Cliff. “California’s air quality regulations protect public health and are backed by a world-class emissions testing laboratory that ensures CARB’s enforcement efforts are rigorously supported with data and science, which CARB was happy to contribute to this landmark case.” 

“Today’s agreement, which includes the largest-ever Clean Air Act civil penalty, stands as notice to manufacturers that they must comply with our nation’s laws, which protect human health and the health of our environment,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We appreciate the work of our partners, the EPA and the State of California, in helping us reach this significant settlement.”

“Cummins installed illegal defeat devices on more than 600,000 RAM pickup trucks, which exposed overburdened communities across America to harmful air pollution,” said Assistant Administrator David M. Uhlmann of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This record-breaking Clean Air Act penalty demonstrates that EPA is committed to holding polluters accountable and ensuring that companies pay a steep price when they break the law.” 

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