Md. Gets $6 Million in Diesel Emissions Cheating Settlements

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The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) announced car-maker Fiat Chrysler and parts-maker Bosch will pay the state more than six million dollars, over accusations that the companies cheated diesel emissions tests in Maryland.

The illegal air pollution the companies allegedly contributed to is not only dangerous to breathing— it’s also a “significant source” of nutrient pollution to the Chesapeake Bay.

The two companies are accused of using illegal “defeat devices” in vehicles sold in Maryland and throughout the U.S. Buyers were sold cars and trucks that advertised being clean and green, but emitted illegal amounts of nitrogen oxide (NOx).

“NOx is a dangerous pollutant that causes and aggravates respiratory diseases and contributes to the formation of smog and acid rain,” according to MDE.

Fiat is alleged to have used defeat devices in about 100,000 diesel-powered Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ram 1500 pickup trucks in model years 2014 through 2016, about 1,200 of which were sold in Maryland.

Bosch is accused of providing the software that controlled the emissions systems in the Fiat vehicles, and also the huge emissions fraud Volkswagen admitted to in 2016. Prosecutors allege the company programmed the software knowing it would be used to cheat emissions tests.

The settlements also require Fiat to fix the affected vehicles to comply with emissions requirements, offer extended warranties, and even a payout to some vehicle lessees and former owners. Companies like Bosch will now be required to report known emissions-cheating schemes, instead of facilitating them.

“Automobile manufacturers and their suppliers cannot design vehicles or parts to cheat emissions tests,” said Attorney General Brian E. Frosh. “Consumers paid a premium to buy what they thought were clean cars, but ended up spewing huge amounts of pollution into the air.  The additional pollution endangered the health of Marylanders, fouled our air and our Chesapeake Bay.  Today, both companies are paying for the damage that we allege they caused.”

The settlements come after 49 states (including all of those in the Bay watershed), Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam took part in an investigation. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 104,000 vehicles are out of compliance with emissions standards. In all, Fiat and Bosch have agreed to pay more than $176 million to the investigating jurisdictions, and $300 million to the federal government.

The state of Maryland plans to spend emissions-cheating settlement money into clean car technology.

-Meg Walburn Viviano

Bay Bulletin