SACRAMENTO — Engine maker Cummins Inc. will recall 600,000 Ram trucks as part of a settlement with federal and California authorities that also requires the company to remedy environmental damage caused by illegal software that let it skirt diesel emissions tests.
New details of the settlement, reached in December, were released Wednesday. Cummins had already agreed to a $1.675 billion civil penalty to settle claims — the largest ever secured under the Clean Air Act — plus $325 million for pollution remedies.
That brings Cummins’ total penalty to more than $2 billion, which officials from the Justice Department, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Attorney General called “landmark” in a call with reporters Wednesday.
Cummins was found to be using illegal defeat devices to bypass the vehicle emissions control equipment in diesel vehicles. The case involves about 97,000 engines in the state of California and nearly 1 million nationwide. The CARB was able to discover the defeat device violations in Ram 2500 and 3500 vehicle models built between 2013 and 2018 that have the 6.7-liter diesel engine manufactured by Cummins.
The EPA partnered with CARB for the investigation, leading to the revelation of additional violations in the same model vehicles built between 2019 to 2023. The state will receive $164 million in penalties and more than $175 million for mitigation, and the company has agreed to correct the affected engines at no cost to vehicle owners.
“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.”
According to a news release, using defeat devices results in excess emissions from the vehicle.
“Cummins knowingly harmed people’s health and our environment when they skirted state emissions tests and requirements,” said Attorney General 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.”
In certain and specific conditions, software that alters the operation of the emissions control system (known as an auxiliary emission control device) is permitted, but it’s usually to protect the vehicle’s engine. However, it must be disclosed to regulators as part of the engine’s certification. In this case, Cummins did not disclose the existence of the auxiliary emission control 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.”
The Cummins software changed the engine’s performance to meet rigorous emission standards during certification testing in the lab. However, the vehicle would shut down the emission control equipment in everyday driving.
The news release also mentions that the Cummins engines “emitted smog-forming oxides of nitrogen (NOx) that were above the legal limit” and that the “pollution contributes to the formation of ozone and particulate matter and can aggravate health problems such as asthma and cardiopulmonary disease.”
The settlement resolves two cases: one nationwide and one specific to the state of California.
The total sum of the settlement is more than $2 billion, which includes a $1.675 billion federal penalty, the largest ever for a Clean Air Act case. The state of California receives approximately $164 million from the consent decree in the nationwide case.
The case also includes a partial consent decree of the California case pays the state about $175 million dollars for mitigation with an additional $33 million to the California Attorney General for the company’s environmental violations and unfair business practices. The state’s share of both consent decrees is over $372 million dollars.
“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.”
Born and raised in Little Rock, AR, Erica N. Guy decided to stay in her hometown to begin her professional career in journalism. Since obtaining her bachelor’s degree from UAPB, Erica has professionally written for several publications about several topics ranging from lifestyle, tech, culture, and entertainment, just to name a few. Continuing her love for her hometown, she joined our team in June 2023, where she is currently a staff writer. Her career goals include continuing storytelling through her writing by being the best professional writer she can be. In her spare time, Erica enjoys trying new foods, cozying up with a good book, spending time with family and friends, and establishing herself as a future businesswoman.