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California Air Resources Board (CARB) Offers Leniency to Manufacturers for Voluntary Disclosure of Emissions Shortcomings

On October 14th, 2020, The California Air Resources Board (CARB) issued a manufacturer Mail-out advisory (Mail-out ECC #2020-06) encouraging engine and vehicle manufacturers to voluntarily disclose non-compliant emission software and other violations to the agency by December 31st, 2020, in order to offset substantial financial penalties and remedial actions related to potentially non-conforming products. 

In a very candid, colorful, and historically unique regulatory advisory, CARB reminded manufacturers (of cars, trucks, buses, off- road engines and equipment, marine engines, motorcycles, etc.) of their obligation to fully and accurately disclose all elements of hardware and software configuration as part of the formal ‘emission certification’ process. Specific attention was given to elements of design, termed AECDs, or Auxiliary Emission Control Devices. 

An AECD is “any element of design which senses temperature, vehicle speed, engine RPM, transmission gear, manifold vacuum, or any other parameter for the purpose of activating, modulating, delaying, or deactivating the operation of any part of the emission control system.” An AECD that reduces the effectiveness of the emission control system is considered an illegal “defeat device” unless it is properly disclosed to the agency in advance of production, and it meets other specific criteria for allowable inclusion in a certified engine or vehicle.  

In the advisory letter, CARB cites recent settlements with major automotive manufacturers related to defeat-device sensing and programming. CARB has emphatically called upon manufacturers to bring their product development practices into compliance, or face steep financial penalties while contributing  to the increasing level of harmful emissions in our environment – something that ECO, Inc. takes very seriously.  

California Air Quality

”This situation will not continue–It is a clear violation of public health to pollute the air with illegal devices, and it undermines the essential trust that has supported the certification program for decades. CARB is therefore now writing to you again to encourage voluntary disclosure of any potential violations with respect to these and other applicable regulatory requirements. Voluntary disclosure will trigger a reduction in penalties; failure to do so may affect the result of future enforcement actions involving your company when CARB’s new techniques – and its new state-of the-art testing laboratory opening in 2021 – inevitably detect any violations you may have.”

The advisory letter goes on further to outline CARB’s current and future efforts to identify and punish entities willing to circumvent the rules.  Below, the agency defines current policy and explains the processes by which they will continue to pursue and penalize violators.  

“CARB enforcement, in consultation with CARB’s certification staff, is focusing on these systemic issues…and is selecting its next set of cases for enforcement and has already identified specific entities for further investigation. If you are not in compliance with CARB regulations, CARB urges you to voluntarily disclose…any violation(s) associated with your certified vehicles and/or engines. Voluntarily disclosing your violation(s) by December 31, 2020 and settling the matter expeditiously thereafter will substantially mitigate the associated penalties. If you are not in compliance with CARB regulations, and you do not voluntarily disclose your violations, you may become the subject of a lengthy investigation and enforcement action. Our testing and investigations to identify non-compliance are continuing, and violations after 2016 are subject to the legislatively increased maximum penalty of $37,500 per mobile source or engine, per identified violation.”

ECO, Inc. is the world’s leading engine and vehicle emissions certification consulting firm. Our mission is to ensure regulatory compliance to protect the overall health of our environment, and to mitigate risk for our clients. We have helped manufacturers and OEM’s avoid severe financial penalties and PR disasters for the past 20 years.

If you received CARB’s advisory letter, or are a manufacturer with issues related to emissions compliance, contact us today to speak with our team of certification experts.