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Caterpillar, EPA Clear the Air Over Diesel Engine Recall

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Photo by Tudor Van Hampton for ENR
Recall affects hundreds of engines instead of hundreds of thousands.
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Caterpillar Inc.'s recent $2.5-million Clean Air Act settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency involves a recall of hundreds of diesel engines, not hundreds of thousands as previously reported by several news outlets, including ENR.

The July 28 consent order, out for public comment through Sept. 6, says Cat is required to complete an ongoing recall program but does not specify how many engines are in the total recall population. After ENR last month ran two articles online about the settlement, Cat contacted us to clarify the record.

Between 2002 and 2006, the Peoria, Ill.-based manufacturer shipped to 50 vehicle builders up to 590,282 on- and off-road engines missing tailpipe controls. Some engines also were not programmed correctly to limit their emissions, says EPA.

In 2005, EPA begin exempting engine makers from shipping tailpipe controls—also called “aftertreatment devices”—attached to engines as long as checks were performed to ensure that third-party builders fitted them up prior to sales.

“Caterpillar's violations either predate this provision, or Caterpillar failed to apply for this exemption,” EPA tells ENR. Cat is not commenting on why it ships engines this way, but industry insiders say it may make assembly more flexible.

In most cases, Cat's clients rejoined the engines and tailpipe controls before shipping units to the field, EPA confirms. As such, the majority of engines involved in the suit do not need to be recalled.

However, about 925 of the engines involved in the lawsuit were not programmed correctly and potentially emitted excess pollutants.

“For that reason, Caterpillar will retire credits equal to approximately 17 tons of NOx and hydrocarbons and one ton of particulate matter to mitigate the excess emissions,” EPA says.

Caterpillar has fixed most of those 925 engines, from 2002 to 2005, the company notes. Under the settlement's terms, the company has until Dec. 31 to verify that it fixed those engines and, if necessary, remediate them to be EPA compliant.

Cat admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to pay the U.S. $2.04 million and California $510,000 in civil penalties.

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