In a significant blow to the diesel aftermarket industry, Sinister Diesel, a prominent California-based truck parts manufacturer, has been slapped with a hefty $1 million fine. The company, officially known as Sinister Mfg. Company, Inc., admitted to criminal charges in a federal court in Sacramento, California. The charges revolve around the company’s involvement in manufacturing and selling illegal defeat devices that bypass a vehicle’s emissions controls. “Sinister Diesel sold products that allowed drivers to strip the emissions controls from their trucks, causing a dramatic increase in the release of pollutants that worsen air quality and harm the quality of life,” stated U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert for the Eastern District of California. This statement underscores the gravity of the situation and the potential environmental impact of such devices.
The company’s plea agreement reveals a two-count Information charge: conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act (CAA) and defraud the United States, and tampering with the monitoring device of an emissions control system of a diesel truck. As a result, Sinister Diesel has agreed to pay a $500,000 criminal fine. An additional $500,000 will be paid under a civil consent decree, which also prohibits the company from manufacturing or selling defeat products.
Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division emphasized the importance of enforcing the Clean Air Act. He stated, “Businesses that manufacture and sell illegal devices to defeat a vehicle’s emissions controls foster pollution and risk decades of progress in curtailing harmful emissions from motor vehicles in this country.”
The case against Sinister Diesel is part of a broader crackdown by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on diesel emissions defeat devices. The EPA has closed over 200 similar cases as of April 2022. The agency’s aggressive stance is evident in its pursuit of companies that manufacture and sell devices designed to defeat vehicle emissions controls. Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance remarked, “EPA testing has shown that a vehicle altered with these parts can emit more than 100 times the amount of certain harmful air pollutants, compared to a vehicle with an intact emissions control system.”
Sinister Diesel’s operations between 2010 and April 2020 involved manufacturing and selling parts designed to “delete” trucks by disabling their emissions control systems. These “delete devices” or “defeat devices” were often bundled with “delete tunes” – software that could modify a diesel truck’s on-board computer to mask the absence of emissions controls. The company’s sales statistics reveal that between October 30, 2015, and July 17, 2017, they sold a staggering 39,792 defeat devices.
Despite the company’s claims that their products were intended for “racing” and off-road use, evidence suggests that the majority of these products were used on public roads. This is a critical issue, as diesel emissions contain hazardous compounds detrimental to human health and the environment. Studies have linked diesel emissions to respiratory ailments, asthma, lung cancer, and even premature deaths. The Sinister Diesel case serves as a stark reminder of the environmental and legal consequences of bypassing emissions controls. As the fight against pollution intensifies, companies and individuals must recognize the importance of adhering to environmental regulations. The health of our planet and its inhabitants depends on it.