Western companies settle with EPA for sale of equipment used to disable car pollution controls

By: - August 28, 2023 3:30 pm

(Getty Images)

A northeast Oregon company that manufactured parts used to disable pollution controls in cars will pay a six-figure fine to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA accused Diamond Eye Manufacturing, a custom exhaust and car parts fabricator in Athena, and six companies in California, Washington and New Jersey, of violating the Clean Air Act by selling parts that could help drivers “defeat” their car’s emission controls. This allowed greater amounts of unhealthy nitrogen oxide and particulate matter to get into the air, according to EPA.

Diamond Eye was accused of selling more than 33,000 illegal parts between 2017 and 2019 that could have been used to allow drivers to remove pollution-control devices in their cars. EPA first targeted the distributors of such products, which eventually led to the agency targeting the fabricators.

Pollution from vehicles plays a key role in climate change because it accounts for about one-third of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, according to the EPA. And cars and trucks without catalytic converters emit more pollution. The EPA estimates that a single pickup truck that’s had its emissions controls disabled emits the equivalent of 120 pickup trucks combined.

James Smith, marketing and information technology manager at Diamond Eye, said the company makes exhaust pipes and kits that can be used to replace old ones in road and racing trucks. Most trucks come with exhaust systems that have catalytic converters, which capture smoke and filter diesel particulates. But Diamond Eye doesn’t manufacture emission controls, so its kits and pipes could be used to take out an old system, with its pollution controls, and install a new system without them.

“All we do is bend tubes into crazy shapes for trucks. We manufacture the pipes,” he said. “Whether or not you reincorporate or weld the pollution equipment back together is up to the installer and individual folks.”

Some of the pipes the company sold for trucks like a Ford Super Duty or Dodge 3500 were called “cat delete” by distributors, insinuating they’d help disengage the catalytic converter.

In settling with the agency, the company did not admit guilt for selling illegal parts, but agreed to pay a fine of $265,000 and to stop manufacturing parts deemed illegal and to destroy its stock of them. The fines are part of the agency’s larger effort since 2014 to end the sale of car parts and devices that can disable or circumvent pollution controls.

Between 2009 and 2020, such devices resulted in the excess emissions of more than 570,000 tons of nitrogen oxide and 5,000 tons of particulate matter into the air, according to EPA.

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Alex Baumhardt
Alex Baumhardt

Alex Baumhardt has been a national radio producer focusing on education for American Public Media since 2017. She has reported from the Arctic to the Antarctic for national and international media, and from Minnesota and Oregon for The Washington Post.