We've known for weeks now that Cummins has agreed to pay a $1.675 billion settlement to the United States government regarding accusations of emissions tampering. That's essentially all we knew about the situation until the U.S. Department of Justice released more details on Wednesday. We now have more information about the largest civil penalty ever issued under the Clean Air Act, and what's clear is that the feds do not view this as accidental—they believe Cummins deliberately cheated emissions regulations.
While the Environmental Protection Agency and DOJ did not elaborate fully on the alleged infractions, they disclosed that roughly 630,000 2013-2019 Ram HD pickups were equipped with software-related defeat devices. The remaining 330,000 trucks involved in the settlement, consisting of 2020-2023 Ram HD models, utilized "undisclosed engine control software features." Those equipped with the defeat devices were able to pass standard EPA emissions tests, though outside of those set conditions, they "artificially reduced the effectiveness of emissions controls."
The EPA says it discovered these issues at its National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Michigan. That facility is where the federal government conducts special trials that are outside the standard test parameters but still considered normal in terms of driving conditions. Relevant tests were conducted on Ram trucks as a follow-up to the EPA's warning issued to all manufacturers in 2015 that it would crack down on defeat devices.
"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."
Even with the ink dry on the settlement, Cummins insists it "has seen no evidence that anyone acted in bad faith and does not admit wrongdoing." Uhlmann refuted that statement during a press event on Wednesday, saying the company “would not be paying $2 billion today if it did nothing wrong.” California Attorney General Rob Bonta added in a statement that “Cummins knowingly harmed people’s health and our environment" by skirting regulations on the federal and state levels.
As part of the settlement, Cummins must repair 85% of the 2013-2019 Ram HD pickups equipped with defeat devices within three years. Fiat Chrysler and its dealers will work in collaboration with Cummins to complete the recall program which is already underway. Interestingly, the DOJ notes that the repairs only involve software updates.
Cummins will also pay more than $325 million on top of the aforementioned record-setting settlement to remedy CAA violations. This is to fully offset the excess NOx emissions released by the nearly one million pickups involved in the case. Part of the $2 billion and change that Cummins has agreed to pay will go toward replacing 27 aging locomotive engines with "new, low-emitting diesel or electric engines." Cummins will also bankroll 50 projects that reduce idling time for diesel-powered switch locomotives with "slightly more than $175 million" paid to the California Air Resources Board for related mitigation.
As highly ranked federal officials will tell you, Cummins' settlement is meant to send a message to other manufacturers: Comply, or pay up.
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