The government slapped seven engine manufacturers with fines and ordered them to improve pollution controls Thursday as part of a $1 billion settlement of allegations that they cheated to get diesel truck engines to pass federal emissions tests. CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker reports.
The settlement, described as the largest environmental enforcement action ever taken, calls on the manufacturers to remove devices from more than 1.1 million truck engines now on the road when they come in for overhaul and improve pollution controls of new engines beginning next year.
"The diesel engine industry has illegally poured millions of tons of pollution into the air," says Attorney General Janet Reno. "It s time for the diesel engine industry to clean up its act and clean up our air."
The Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) charged the diesel companies installed a computer device that turned on anti-smog equipment during EPA tests, then turned it off when trucks were on the highway. This allowed them to get better mileage, but also allowed massive, illegal emissions of nitrogen oxides. This is the primary ingredient of urban smog.
"In this year alone, more than one-million trucks are on the road with these illegal devices emitting an additional 1.3 million tons of nitrogen oxides. This is equal to the emissions of 65 million cars," says EPA Administrator Carol Browner.
Trucks on the roads now won t be recalled, but future engines will have to meet tougher new emission standards. The EPA says that should remove 75 tons of nitrogen oxides from the air, meaning cleaner air for smoggy cities like Los Angeles. The trucking industry says it will also mean higher prices for consumers
Environmentalists complain the diesel-makers got off easy. The EPA suggests once this agreement has had a chance to clear the air, its critics and the general public all will breathe a little easier.