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Daniel Strohl on Jan 14th, 2020

After finding dozens of aftermarket parts companies in violation of the Clean Air Act for selling emissions defeat devices last year, the Environmental Protection Agency has announced that it will step up enforcement against such companies and clamp down on any aftermarket parts designed to bypass emissions controls, whether intended for on- or off-road use.

The announcement came after the EPA reached its most recent settlement with an aftermarket parts seller, in which it found Punch It Performance and Tuning out of Florida to have sold more than 20,000 devices that “included hardware components and electronic tuning software, known as ‘tunes,’ that hack into and reprogram a motor vehicle’s electronic control module to alter engine performance and enable the removal of filters, catalysts and other critical emissions controls that reduce air pollution.”

The owners of Punch It Performance and Tuning, who dissolved the company sometime after the EPA’s investigation began in July 2015, were ordered to pay a civil penalty of $850,000 and surrender all software and source code they used to create the devices in question, according to the EPA. Punch It Performance appeared to focus largely on diesel-related products, including EGR-delete tunes.

“EPA will vigorously pursue and prosecute companies who attempt to circumvent emission controls that are required to reduce air pollution,” Susan Bodine, the EPA’s assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance, said in a statement. “This case illustrates why stopping the manufacture, sale, and installation of aftermarket defeat devices is an EPA National Compliance Initiative.”

Some of the other aftermarket companies that the EPA has pursued enforcement action against over the last year also specialized in tunes and other products for diesel engines. For selling tunes, largely for heavy-duty diesel engines, Performance Diesel Inc. was ordered to pay a civil penalty of $1.1 million in September; for selling catalytic converter-delete aftermarket exhaust systems, California-based MagnaFlow was ordered to pay a $612,849 penalty in March; and for selling catalytic converter-delete aftermarket exhaust systems, Nevada-based JAMO Performance Exhaust was ordered to pay a $10,000 penalty in August.

In addition, the EPA secured settlements against a number of companies that sold parts for gasoline-engine vehicles over the last year, among them Nevada-based Flowmaster, which paid a $270,000 penalty in March; California-based OBX Racing Sports, which paid a $25,000 penalty in April; California-based Weistec Engineering, which paid an $8,500 penalty in March; and California-based APEX Integration, which paid a $5,000 penalty in August. All were for selling either tunes or catalytic converter-delete exhaust components.

In all, the EPA secured settlements against 42 companies in 2019, more than in any one year over the past decade and a 40-percent increase over 2018. Since 2010, the EPA has secured settlements against 298 companies for Clean Air Act violations involving vehicles and engines.

According to the EPA, its National Compliance Initiative, which “will focus on stopping the manufacture, sale, and installation of defeat devices on vehicles and engines used on public roads as well as on nonroad vehicles and engines,” is slated to run from 2020 through 2023, though the August and September enforcement actions listed above were considered part of the initiative. As the EPA notes, doing so will reduce

mobile source pollutants includ(ing) smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, various toxic air pollutants such as cancer-causing benzene, carbon monoxide, particulate matter or soot, and greenhouse gases. In addition to adverse effects on the environment, these pollutants are responsible for asthma, heart disease and other illnesses.
Stuart Gosswein, the senior director of federal government affairs for the Specialty Equipment Market Association, said SEMA is following the National Compliance Initiative. “The EPA has always had the authority to enforce clean air laws on any emissions-related parts that would take a vehicle out-of-compliance,” he said. “But (the National Compliance Initiative) does confirm the EPA’s recent increased level of review and potential enforcement.”

According to SEMA’s Guide to Government Regulation of Emissions-Related Aftermarket Parts, it’s up to aftermarket parts manufacturers to obtain certification – in the form of a CARB EO number – that their parts don’t fall afoul of the Clean Air Act’s requirement not to tamper with emissions controls.

Generally, any product that affects air flow into or out of the engine, impacts the containment or delivery of fuel or affects the functionality of an emissions control system or device must demonstrate emissions compliance to be considered legal for street use. That includes but is not limited to intake systems, exhaust components, tuning products, intercoolers, turbos and superchargers.
In addition, SEMA warns that selling any aftermarket parts with the disclaimers “for off-road use only” or “for racing use only” is “essentially meaningless… if the part can be installed on a highway vehicle.”

As pointed out during the debate over the SEMA-backed Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act, re-introduced in Congress late last year (S.2602, H.R.5434), the EPA does not make a practice of prosecuting individuals who have bought and made use of emissions control defeat devices, only the manufacturers selling those devices. At the time, Gosswein noted that the EPA’s targeting of such companies were examples of the enforcement mechanisms already in place working like they should.



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I've made my disdain for people who remove cats for street-driven cars known already.
 

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While it seems the targeted manufacturers were selling parts and tunes to delete emissions controls, the language is there and this could lead to all tunes being targeted. The language is also there to require all power adders (intakes, turbos, superchargers, exhaust, fuel controls, etc.) to apply for certification for each application they could be used for.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Yes. Those actions would/do make sense if we remember why the rules were passed into law in the first place.

I do love my BOE 300 tune tho......
 

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I believe we're stepping over quarters to pick up pennies. Of all the vehicles on the road, how many people are actually making these sort of changes? The companies cited are known to primarily operate in the consumer space, so basically we're picking on individual consumers. Of the big numbers listed in the article, the biggest settlement was $1M, and the others listed quickly dropped off. Is it really the best use of time to be going after little companies for $5k?

How big a problem is this compared to emissions generated by commercial logistics (ie trucks, ships, and air travel). To me it seems like there are bigger wins in that space, but we probably don't focus over there because those areas are organized, lobby, and quickly chicken little the resulting costs of improvements.
 

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Well, if truck, ships and planes meet the emissions control laws (assuming they exist), it would be difficult to go after them.

Second, if companies who sell devices and/or software to cheat laws see the trend enough, they may stop.
 

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Well, if truck, ships and planes meet the emissions control laws (assuming they exist), it would be difficult to go after them.

Second, if companies who sell devices and/or software to cheat laws see the trend enough, they may stop.
From reading some of the cases the past few years, there are several related to importing off-road vehicles that do not meet the emissions of their counterpart on-road vehicles or engine family. Some were fined for importing ATVs or generators.

I do agree this seems to be geared to both fine offenders and scare others into stopping. It's been shown several times that you can make just as much power (or damn close) while keeping the emissions equipment, at least for gas vehicles. I still hate taking the Lotus through emission testing.
 

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My point is that we should be looking at the true major contributors to the emissions problem. Show me the data that gives us any clue that tunes are a top level contributor to pollution. There is no argument, they are "a" contributor- my assertion is that there are bigger fish to fry.

I'd reason that commercial logistics are a much larger contributor to pollution, and that minute gains in those associated industries would be far more beneficial than fining APEX $5k. Unfortunately large companies and industry are far more organized and thus much better at making sure the law never changes. The fact that there are places that are bigger contributors to the pollution problem, and we're not making changes to the law to encourage them to improve, is my point.





Well, if truck, ships and planes meet the emissions control laws (assuming they exist), it would be difficult to go after them.

Second, if companies who sell devices and/or software to cheat laws see the trend enough, they may stop.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
My point is that we should be looking at the true major contributors to the emissions problem. Show me the data that gives us any clue that tunes are a top level contributor to pollution. There is no argument, they are "a" contributor- my assertion is that there are bigger fish to fry.

I'd reason that commercial logistics are a much larger contributor to pollution, and that minute gains in those associated industries would be far more beneficial than fining APEX $5k. Unfortunately large companies and industry are far more organized and thus much better at making sure the law never changes. The fact that there are places that are bigger contributors to the pollution problem, and we're not making changes to the law to encourage them to improve, is my point.

Oh, I got your point and offered my opinion. But, we have 2 different topics. One is using existing law to reduce cheating and pollution.

The 2nd, tho, is getting laws passed. Wholly different.

Do planes and ship have emissions limits?

g
 

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Oh, I got your point and offered my opinion. But, we have 2 different topics. One is using existing law to reduce cheating and pollution.

The 2nd, tho, is getting laws passed. Wholly different.

Do planes and ship have emissions limits?

g
Aircraft: No Ships: Yes
 

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Would this apply to full race cars? Track only cars?
 

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Would this apply to full race cars? Track only cars?
That’s where I think this gets a little unclear. They are only targeting manufacturers and not individuals, but the “for off road use only” labeling is not going to work. I think they will target parts that can convert a street car to a track only car but not cars built for racing only from the beginning. This is for items bypassing emissions, so maybe we’ll see less tunes offering that or exhaust parts bypassing cats.
 

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I believe we're stepping over quarters to pick up pennies. Of all the vehicles on the road, how many people are actually making these sort of changes? The companies cited are known to primarily operate in the consumer space, so basically we're picking on individual consumers. Of the big numbers listed in the article, the biggest settlement was $1M, and the others listed quickly dropped off. Is it really the best use of time to be going after little companies for $5k?

How big a problem is this compared to emissions generated by commercial logistics (ie trucks, ships, and air travel). To me it seems like there are bigger wins in that space, but we probably don't focus over there because those areas are organized, lobby, and quickly chicken little the resulting costs of improvements.

There are millions of passenger cars on the road. Driving billions of miles a year. Go follow the link in the OP
Just one of the fined companies sold more products than there are Elises on the road.

You are making an unfounded supposition that this doesn't amount to anything and charging others to prove you wrong.

You have seen one of these pinheads 'rolling coal'

Screw them

IF enforcement to get rid of those idiots eliminates our tunes, so be it, it was fun while it lasted.

The EPA is doing their job, it doesn't sound like most of those fines were particularly crushing.

If you don't believe in emission controls, you are a fool, or so young you do not remember what real smog is.
 

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From reading some of the cases the past few years, there are several related to importing off-road vehicles that do not meet the emissions of their counterpart on-road vehicles or engine family. Some were fined for importing ATVs or generators.
I wonder if we will see an uptick in non-US sources for tunes since it will be pretty easy to import them? There is already a growing eastern European market for pirated John Deere software since the manufacturer has made it so difficult for owners to do even simple maintenance. Tuning software is big business and there are few means to enforce US laws on other nations. Sure they can try to stop the imports but just look at all the items of questionable legality that are for sale on ebay and aliexpress. It will be like trying to stop pirated music/movies. As soon as one source is shut down three more will pop up in it's place.
 

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I wonder if we will see an uptick in non-US sources for tunes since it will be pretty easy to import them? There is already a growing eastern European market for pirated John Deere software since the manufacturer has made it so difficult for owners to do even simple maintenance.
This is already happening. I was casually considering getting the current Honda Super Cub as a commute bike, and quickly found that there's a brisk trade in offshore hot rod ECUs for the (Grom) engine in it. Expect more of this.
 

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There are millions of passenger cars on the road. Driving billions of miles a year. Go follow the link in the OP
Just one of the fined companies sold more products than there are Elises on the road.

You are making an unfounded supposition that this doesn't amount to anything and charging others to prove you wrong.

You have seen one of these pinheads 'rolling coal'

Screw them
There aren't that many elises on the road- lets try a much bigger number than any listed in the article. The defeat devices result in 30% more emissions (according to a quick google search). If 4M people bought tunes, the emissions output would be as if there were an additional 1.2M cars on the road. There are 273M vehicles registered in the US- this is a 0.4% difference. I HAVE seen the pinheads rolling coal... but I can tell you I've seen far more regular semi's pushing loads of soot into the air than coal rollers.

IF enforcement to get rid of those idiots eliminates our tunes, so be it, it was fun while it lasted.

The EPA is doing their job, it doesn't sound like most of those fines were particularly crushing.

If you don't believe in emission controls, you are a fool, or so young you do not remember what real smog is.
In my post I clearly stated I thought tunes defeating emissions on road going cars could be considered "a" problem. If my history is right, it was the introduction of emissions regulations that lead to smog reduction. In other words, upstream changes in regulations that affected industry, not going after small companies. glb caught my viewpoint - regulations changes are proven to be a much more effective method of reducing pollution than the activity primarily cited in this article. Generally speaking I'd rather my tax dollars go to activities that are going to maximize the effect per dollar spent. While it is true that ignored a problem may grow, I'm ok with that as long as we're using the opportunity cost to solve the biggest, most impactful problems first.
 

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I'm supportive of enforcing emissions. That said there are plenty of studies that suggest that 80% of the bad stuff is coming from a small % of the cars on the road. We just don't have the stones to tell people that their car is no longer road worthy and force them to change. Every state I have lived in has emissions laws but if you don't pass them there are ways out of it. Register your car to someone in the country or show that you have attempted to fix the car and paid X dollars for it and they will green light you.

What I'm saying is that step 1 should be getting the polluters off the road imo.

Roy
 

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The very conservative want vehicles to spew black soot like the good old days, the futurists imagine electric cars whose power magically appears with no environmental effect anywhere.

Regardless, lower emission cars are faster and handle better than any ever in history. Our hobby will move forward, we will all have access to plenty enough performance to keep us more than entertained.

A street rod does not have to have straight pipes to be cool.
 

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I'm supportive of enforcing emissions. That said there are plenty of studies that suggest that 80% of the bad stuff is coming from a small % of the cars on the road.
Actually, it's well above 80%, and has been for decades. There's a reason we coined the term 'Gross Emitter' for a badly out of tune vehicle when we were doing roadside sampling at EPA back in the '90s. A car running really rich (say with a miss or some other thing horribly wrong) with a dead catalytic converter emits 2-3 orders of magnitude more HC and CO than one running near stoichiometric mixture with a working cat.

That means that one gross emitter is worth 100-1000 clean cars in the total mix. It really doesn't take many bad apples to spoil the barrel in a place like Denver in February or LA in July. It also means, incidentally, that a car actually modified for good performance is not a gross emitter as long as it's not running horribly rich at cruise. So the 'waaah it hurts performance' whine is completely bogus. You can run an oversize low-restriction cat, tune for stoichiometric mixture below, say 80% throttle opening, and pass any sniffer test in the world until you go above 80% throttle (none of the regulatory tests requires over 80% throttle on anything with an acceptable power/weight ratio). NOx is a little trickier, but also not a big deal as long as you leave EGR on the car and let the mixture dither around stoichiometric at cruise as it is designed to.

Taking the cat off raises HC and CO emissions by about 300%, mostly when the engine is not fully warm, during throttle transitions (one reason why DBW throttle appeared), and at light throttle cruise.

Diesels are different, but the same principles mostly hold - you give up some fuel economy to keep the NOx and particulate reactors hot (or run DEF), but not a lot if you're working the engine hard enough. A diesel at max power mixture smokes a little. It does not make a cloud of black smoke. The only time that's not true is on things like unlimited class competition pulling tractors running propane injection - definitely not normal on-road use. Further, nearly any diesel can't sustain max power mixture for very long before something in the exhaust tract overheats. You moderate this by reducing the fueling rate which...also does away with the visible smoke (and most of the particulate) in the exhaust. NOx managment is a lot trickier due to higher compression ratios and combustion temperatures than in an otto cycle engine, but carrying around an enormous NOx reactor bomb (or carrying and spraying DEF) is not that big a deal on something that weighs 20,000+ lbs unladen.

Lots of smoke from an on-road diesel usually means somebody didn't understand the relationship between intake pressure and fueling rate when they were reprogramming the injection system for more power, or the thing is just out of tune, or they wanted smoke just to be an a$$hole. In other words - the effects are different than with an otto cycle engine, but the causes are the same.

I don't know why people are traditionally so reluctant to just put a bigger cat on the car. It works fine, passes sniffer tests (and visual tests if well done) and hurts performance less than most mufflers do.
 
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