Navistar Inc. is settling Clean Air Act violations with the U.S. Justice Department by paying a $52 million fine and destroying old engines to prevent oxides of nitrogen (NOx) pollution from fouling the atmosphere.
Navistar, now a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG’s Traton Group, has borne the burden of deciding against using the selective catalyst reduction (SCR) form of emissions control that other truck makers adopted following tougher pollution rules going into effect in 2010.
In the Justice Department action filed in 2015, Navistar was accused of misrepresenting 7,749 engines built in 2010 as having been assembled in 2009 before the new rules went into effect. Sold under the MaxxForce brand, 2011-2014 versions of the engines were part of a class-action suit that Navistar settled in January 2020 for $135 million.
A few individuals who opted out of the class action are still suing Navistar. A Pennsylvania federal court recently denied Navistar’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging fraud and misrepresentation of its MaxxForce engines.
The MaxxForce debacle and resulting customer anger cost Navistar about half its market share in the early part of the last decade. The company recovered share and its reputation under former CEO Troy Clarke, who led the negotiations resulting in Traton’s $3.7 billion acquisition of Navistar that concluded in July.
On Monday, the Justice Department said Navistar illegally sold heavy-duty diesel engines in violation of Environmental Protection Agency rules. Navistar signed a definitive agreement to purchase and destroy enough of the older engines to prevent 10,000 tons of future NOx emissions and forfeit its current NOx credits. It also agreed to a $52 million fine.
Choice of engines to destroy
A proposed consent decree would allow Navistar to destroy diesel engines used to power heavy-duty diesel “trucks, transit, intercity, or school buses, or any other on-highway heavy duty diesel vehicles” to prevent future emissions. Navistar needs to consider geographic areas where pollution levels are highest in repurchasing engines.
“Older diesel engines without modern emission controls emit significant amounts of air pollution that harm people’s health and take years off people’s lives,” said Larry Starfield, acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
“This harm is greatest in communities near busy roadways, which are too often overburdened by high levels of ozone and particulate matter pollution.”
The proposed consent decree, which is subject to a pending 30-day public comment period, also said Navistar cannot force customers from whom it purchases older engines to purchase a new engine or vehicle.
‘Solutions for the future’
“Navistar is pleased to put this legacy issue behind us and eager to focus on transportation solutions for the future,” the company said in a statement.
The truck and bus maker is pursuing diesel alternatives and has begun building a medium-duty battery electric truck at its plant in Escobedo, Mexico. It also is working on a hydrogen fuel cell venture with General Motors and J.B. Hunt Transport as well as a fuel cell demonstration project with Cummins Inc. for use by Werner Enterprises.