Cummins Inc. to settle claim: $1.675 Billion Penalty Would Be Largest Ever for a Clean Air Act Violation and the Second Largest Ever Environmental Penalty

Here are a few key points about the $1.675 billion penalty against Cummins Inc.:

1. It would be the largest ever penalty for a violation of the Clean Air Act, exceeding the previous record set in 2021 against Hyundai and Kia.

2. It’s the second largest environmental penalty ever, behind only the $20.8 billion settlement with BP over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 

3. Cummins allegedly installed defeat devices on over 900,000 diesel pickup truck engines from 2013-2023 to bypass emissions controls and allow excess nitrogen oxide emissions.

4. Nitrogen oxide emissions contribute to respiratory issues like asthma. The EPA estimates the defeat devices led to thousands of tons of excess emissions.

5. The settlement is an agreement in principle. It still needs to be incorporated into a consent decree and approved by a federal court. 

6. The massive penalty reflects an aggressive stance by the Biden administration to strictly enforce environmental laws and hold companies accountable for violations that impact public health.

Engine manufacturer Cummins Inc. has reached an agreement in principle with the United States and the State of California to pay a $1.675 billion penalty for violating the Clean Air Act. The company installed emissions defeat devices on hundreds of thousands of engines, which bypassed or rendered inoperative emissions controls, in violation of the law. Specifically, Cummins allegedly installed defeat devices on model year 2013 to 2019 RAM 2500 and 3500 pickup truck engines, as well as undisclosed auxiliary emission control devices on model year 2019 to 2023 RAM 2500 and 3500 pickup truck engines. This settlement represents the largest civil penalty ever secured under the Clean Air Act and the second-largest environmental penalty overall.

The Justice Department, led by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, expressed its commitment to enforcing environmental laws and holding accountable those who unlawfully alter engines to cheat emissions tests. They estimate that Cummins’ defeat devices have caused thousands of tons of excess emissions of nitrogen oxides, which can have harmful effects on people’s health, including respiratory issues like asthma and infections. The Justice Department will work to finalize the agreement and file it with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. This historic agreement serves as a clear signal that environmental law violations will not be tolerated, as they directly harm communities and individuals’ health and safety. The Justice Department acknowledged the collaboration and assistance of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, the EPA, and the State of California in investigating and prosecuting this case.

In summary, this would be a landmark settlement signaling that flouting emissions laws can lead to severe punishments due to the harm caused by excess air pollution. The Justice Department stressed its commitment to vigorously prosecuting violations of environmental statutes.

Source: Department of Justice Press Release 23-1473

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