The engine maker Cummins Inc. has been handed down what has been described as the largest penalty ever under the Clean Air Act by the U.S. Department of Justice. The company is facing criminal charges and will also pay $7 million in fines for emissions test cheating accusations.
The allegations state that the company, based in Columbus, Ind., and its divisions in the U.S., U.K., and Canada deliberately manipulated engine software to pass emissions tests conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency during the production of its engines.
The manipulative engine software was specifically designed to make the engines appear to be more fuel efficient and compliant with emissions standards when in actuality when used in real world conditions, the enginesequent pollutants being released into the atmosphere.
However, the fine imposed by the Department of Justice represents only a fraction of the possible fines that the companyt face. In total, Cummins would have to pay up to$16 million in fines if the Senate approves the sanctions proposed by the Department of Justice or if the company violates the terms of the settlement.
In addition, the company has also agreed to implement an enhanced improve its compliance with the Clean Air Act, and will spend $15 million on emissions reduction projects, such as replacing older bus and truck engines with newer, cleaner-burning ones.
The DOJ has called the case an appropriate “measure of justice” for the intentional manipulation of the engines’ emission values. By willfully violating the Clean Air Act, Cummins put the public at risk by releasing an estimated 4.5 million tons of pollutants into the air over the course of five years.
The proposed settlement agreement marks the largest penalty ever for a company accused of tampering with emissions tests, and should serve as an important reminder that companies cannot circumvent the Clean Air Act and the public health and environmental standards set out by the EPA.