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Company gets hit with six-figure fine in crackdown on illegal modifications to car equipment — here's what happened

Over the last four years, the EPA shut 172 civil cases, raking in $55.5 million in penalties, and 17 criminal cases.

Over the last four years, the EPA shut 172 civil cases, raking in $55.5 million in penalties, and 17 criminal cases.

Photo Credit: iStock

An Oregon company bent on selling illegal "defeat devices" paid a hefty price.

In August, Diamond Eye Manufacturing settled a lawsuit with the Environmental Protection Agency, agreeing to fork over $265,000 and post an announcement of the settlement on its website for eight weeks.

The company had to destroy its inventory of illegal parts. It also had to notify customers of the settlement and that it cannot provide technical support or honor warranty claims for the illegal parts, according to the EPA.

The regulator said the Athena-based business sold 33,134 illegal parts from 2017 to 2019 "that allowed for the removal of a vehicle's emission control components."

The Oregon Capital Chronicle reported that the EPA came after fabricators after first targeting distributors of the products.

"All we do is bend tubes into crazy shapes for trucks. We manufacture the pipes," James Smith, marketing and information technology manager for Diamond Eye, told the outlet. "Whether or not you reincorporate or weld the pollution equipment back together is up to the installer and individual folks."

The argument seems disingenuous at best. As the Capital Chronicle reported, Diamond Eye sold pipes marketed by distributors as "cat delete." A catalytic converter is a device that captures harmful gases from exhaust and makes them less harmful before they're discharged into the environment.

In December, engine manufacturer Cummins agreed to pay $1.675 billion to settle a Department of Justice lawsuit in which it was accused of installing these defeat or delete devices on nearly one million Ram trucks in violation of the Clean Air Act.

In September, the DOJ cracked down on the illegal devices, charging eBay with facilitating the sale of hundreds of thousands of products that allow drivers to partake in the dangerous practice of "rolling coal."

The EPA also reached settlements with six other companies that sold defeat devices, though only one faced a fine in the range of Diamond Eye's: Auburn, Washington-based Competition Specialties, which paid $225,368.

It noted nitrogen oxides, non-methane hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter increased by 310, 1,140, 120, and 40 times respectively in vehicles without emissions controls. Over the last four years, it shut 172 civil cases, raking in $55.5 million in penalties and 17 criminal cases.

"Defeat devices enable more air pollution from vehicles to the detriment of Americans' health, and EPA is vigilant about holding accountable the entities that sell these illegal products," EPA Pacific Southwest regional administrator Martha Guzman said. "These settlements demonstrate EPA's commitment to enforcing critical environmental laws that protect clean air and public health."

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