Justice Department and EPA Reach Clean Air Act Settlement with Gear Box Z for Selling Defeat Devices

2 years ago

Arizona-based Gear Box Z (GBZ) has agreed to stop manufacturing and selling aftermarket automotive products widely known as “defeat devices,” that, when installed, bypass, defeat or render inoperative Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-certified emission controls on motor vehicles thereby increasing emissions and harming air quality.

In January 2020, the United States sued GBZ, which manufactured and sold thousands of defeat devices, alleging that these devices violated the Clean Air Act (CAA). In March 2021, the court found that the United States would likely prevail on the merits of its case that GBZ’s products are defeat devices, and issued a preliminary injunction ordering GBZ to immediately halt the illegal sale of the devices. In its decision, the court found that the continued selling of these defeat devices would cause irreparable harm by increasing motor vehicle emissions that impair human health and the environment.  

“This lawsuit and settlement show that the United States will vigorously enforce the Clean Air Act, including its prohibition of illegal devices that disable emission controls and harm the environment and public health,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD).

“Defeat devices in automobiles and trucks can significantly increase emissions of hazardous air pollutants,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Businesses manufacturing and selling illegal aftermarket defeat devices should take note that this is a priority enforcement focus for EPA and we will continue to actively investigate these violations of the Clean Air Act.”

The settlement prohibits GBZ from manufacturing and selling any defeat devices; it also bars GBZ and its owners from selling or transferring any intellectual property associated with these products, providing technical support for these products, and investing in or obtaining revenue from other companies’ manufacture and sales of defeat devices. Under the settlement, GBZ and its owners will pay a civil penalty of $10,000, which was based on their financial situation.

Tampering with diesel-powered vehicles by installing defeat devices can cause large amounts of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter emissions, both of which contribute to serious public health problems. EPA expects that GBZ’s defeat devices will cause excess NOx and particulate matter emissions over the anticipated remaining life of the diesel pickup trucks equipped with them. By stopping the manufacture and sale of these products, this settlement will prevent harmful emissions from diesel trucks that, if outfitted with GBZ’s products, would pollute far more than the regulations allow. Such emissions can cause premature death, aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, aggravation of existing asthma, acute respiratory symptoms, chronic bronchitis, and decreased lung function. Numerous studies also link diesel exhaust to increased incidence of lung cancer. Respiratory issues disproportionately affect families, especially children, living in underserved communities overburdened by pollution. Stopping the sale and use of defeat devices will help prevent harmful air pollution that exacerbates the health effects of pollutant exposures. 

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 a priority for EPA. To learn more, visit: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/national-compliance-initiative-stopping-aftermarket-defeat-devices-vehicles-and-engines.

The consent decree for this settlement was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. A copy of the decree, and information on submitting comments will be available on the Department of Justice website at: www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees

For more information on this settlement: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/gear-box-z-inc-clean-air-act-settlement.

If you suspect someone is manufacturing, selling, or installing illegal defeat devices, or is tampering with emission controls, tell the EPA by writing to [email protected]

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