Despite the recent news that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) no longer lists emissions defeat devices as a top priority, there’s still no two ways about it: Tampering with a tune to defeat emissions controls is still considered a federal crime. The federal government has just hit a diesel tuner in Idaho with a $1 million fine for selling external tuning devices that defeated onboard emissions controls
GDP Tuning and Gorilla Performance, owned by Barry Pierce, pled guilty to conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and agreed to pay $1 million in criminal fines. According to the Justice Department, the two companies conspired to sell “tens of thousands of tuning devices and accompanying software” that “tampered with vehicles’ on-board diagnostic (OBD) systems.” The devices described are essentially external ECU tuners that are common in the diesel truck and gasoline car aftermarket.
While companies can sell tuning devices, they must pass the muster of the EPA, and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for certain states. These devices are often limited in their tuning ability. For example, they cannot disable OBD monitors, especially ones that monitor emissions. They cannot adjust fueling and ignition parameters but can adjust boost levels. Most importantly, they must comply with all emissions regulations.
Where GDP Tuning and Pierce fell afoul of the EPA was supplying tuners that could circumvent emissions devices, effectively selling “defeat devices” en masse. These tuners were not restricted in their capability and could freely adjust certain parameters that pushed the tuning devices into non-compliance.
Diesel tuning is a particular spot of interest for federal investigators as the emissions from tuning diesel engines has the potential to be more harmful than that of gasoline engines. Diesels typically emit more particulates and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) than gasoline engines. This is seen most prominently in coal rolling.
Nonetheless, this is a sure sign that even if the EPA is slightly lifting off the proverbial gas pedal, it still has its foot firmly planted on it.
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