Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. reviewed the consent decrees worked out by the EPA and the Justice Department with Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit Diesel, Mack, Navistar and Volvo. He declared the agreements "fair, reasonable and consistent with public policy."
The dispute arose when the federal government accused engine makers of using "defeat devices" to get around federal emissions standards. Electronic engines did indeed meet the EPA's emissions test, which emulated in-city, stop-and-go driving. But the engines performed in a different fuel-saving mode in on-highway conditions, leading to what the government said was as much as three times the amount of pollution.
The engine makers said EPA knew all along that the engines performed differently on the highway, but chose to settle rather than go through an expensive, protracted legal battle in the courts.
The engine makers must pay a total of $83.4 million in civil fines, which vary depending on the manufacturer. They also agreed to spend another $109 million in environmental projects. They will spend an estimated $800 million to get engines ready for lower NOx levels in 2002, as mandated by the agreement - two years earlier than previous standards.
Now that the agreement has been approved, lawsuits could be forthcoming from environmentalists, truck engine owners and individual states.