In 2021, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleged that Orion Diesel LLC and Diesel Ops LLC manufactured, sold, and installed defeat devices or aftermarket parts that are intended to manipulate diesel vehicle emissions. Authorities said the companies’ actions are clear violations of the Clean Air Act.
The Justice Department’s ENRD (Environment and Natural Resources Division) Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim reiterated the importance of the Clean Air Act in protecting the environment and the public, especially the vulnerable population, from the impacts of air pollution. The law prohibits all actions – including the use of illegal devices – that endanger public health and the environment.
In August 2022, the East District of Michigan’s US District Court found the two companies, both from Oakland County, guilty of supplying defeat devices. Orion Diesel and Diesel Ops were ordered to pay a combined penalty of $10 million (approximately £8.09 million).
Nicholas Piccolo, who owns both companies, was also ordered to pay $455,925 (approximately £369,043) as a civil penalty for not responding to an information request the government needed about the Clean Air Act Section 208. Piccolo was also found to have violated the Federal Debt Collection Procedures Act when he allegedly made fraudulent transfers. He has to pay almost $1 million (approximately £809,440) for this unlawful act.
Additionally, the Michigan court imposed a permanent injunction that prevents the companies from selling the illegal devices in the future.
No details were provided regarding the specific devices the companies used but earlier videos posted online showed the suppliers featured, reviewed, and praised the power-boosting capabilities of performance-enhancing parts used in diesel trucks.
Piccolo already knew that their companies were under observation by the EPA. It was in 2018 when authorities first issued a warning to stop all activities – manufacturing, selling, and installing – that involved defeat devices and manipulating emissions.
Nevertheless, authorities discovered that both companies continued to sell the devices to manufacturers of Dodge Cummins and Ford Powerstroke engines. These devices helped the manufacturers improve mileage and performance while increasing the vehicles’ toxic emissions.
The EPA eventually issued notices for Clean Air Act violations and asked for information about the companies’ activities. All of Diesel Ops’ assets (totalling around $979,818 or approximately £793,104) were immediately transferred to Piccolo through a virtual fire sale. It was seen as a desperate attempt to keep their money hidden from authorities.
In December 2021, the US Justice Department filed a complaint against Piccolo and the two companies. They requested a default judgment by July 2022, which was granted on August 29 by Judge Denise Page Hood at the Detroit US District Court.
Why the EPA stepped in
The EPA’s Larry Starfield describes defeat devices as illegal because they release emissions that harm human health and the environment throughout the life of the vehicle. Individuals and companies that profit from the use of these unlawful devices should be held accountable.
Debra Shore, the administrator for EPA Region 5, sees the court’s action as a strong indication that authorities do not tolerate illegal acts such as the manufacture, selling, and installing of dangerous defeat devices on diesel engines and vehicles. The EPA is dedicated to ensuring that carmakers and other automotive industry manufacturers adhere to the Clean Air Act. The emission control systems in cars and vans are installed to help reduce toxic air and protect the public.
The crackdown on cheat defeat devices started after the 2015 Dieselgate diesel emissions scandal broke out. It initially involved only the Volkswagen Group, which fitted their VW and Audi vehicles in the US with the cheat devices. The scandal soon blew to global proportions when other carmakers, such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Renault, and Vauxhall, were also discovered to have used the illegal devices on their diesel vehicles. Hundreds of thousands of drivers in the US, Europe, the UK, and other parts of the world are affected by the scandal.
Defeat devices and NOx emissions
A defeat device can sense when a vehicle is in testing and when it does, it – for the entirety of a regulatory test – lowers emissions to within the legal levels regulated by the World Health Organization. The vehicle appears eco-friendly and emissions-compliant. Once it is brought out and driven on real roads, it releases dangerous amounts of nitrogen oxide or NOx.
NOx has adverse effects on the environment. Its impacts on human health can be life-changing:
- Anxiety and depression
- Various respiratory diseases, including bronchitis
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Premature death
Carmakers involved in the diesel emissions scandal are responsible for endangering the lives of their customers. Those found guilty by the courts lied to and mis-sold their defeat device-equipped diesel vehicles as clean, safe, and emissions-compliant even when they were heavy pollutants. Affected car owners are encouraged to file a diesel claim against them, the same way that the court fined Piccolo and his two companies.
How does my diesel claim work?
Not all diesel vehicles are affected by the scandal. Before you start the process, visit ClaimExperts.co.uk first to verify your eligibility to bring a claim. Once you have all the information you need, it will be easy to file your diesel claim, especially if you have emissions experts helping you out.
If your claim is successful, you will be compensated, the amount of which will depend on the circumstances of your emission claim.