The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking a $168,700 penalty from a Windham dealership and service shop for allegedly tampering with emissions controls on diesel vehicles in violation of the federal Clean Air Act.

The government is accusing APlus Truck Sales Inc. of selling and installing aftermarket parts known as “defeat devices” more than 50 times between 2017 and 2019. The EPA announced the complaint in a news release Friday.

“This action sends a strong message that tampering with emission controls on vehicles will not be tolerated,” said Deb Szaro, the agency’s acting regional administrator. “Emission control systems on vehicles are designed to protect public health by reducing pollution. To ensure that we all have access to clean air, it is critical that vehicle repair facilities comply with the Clean Air Act.”

Attorney Leonard Sharon, who said he is representing the business owners, said they are working to negotiate a fair settlement with the government but were blindsided by the complaint.

“First, the complained-of violations were a very small part of APlus’s business,” Sharon wrote in an email. “The owners of APlus have passionately made sure and continue to make sure that they are now in compliance. The offer made by the EPA would financially cripple APlus. We are exceedingly interested in reaching a fair settlement but believe the offer is disproportionate to other settlements in similar cases.”

He added that the business remains open and APlus Trucks has been in compliance with all EPA regulations since the last violation in 2019.

More than half of the airborne pollutants in the United States come from motor vehicles and other mobile sources, according to the EPA. The emissions include smog-forming volatile organic compounds, toxic air pollutants that can cause cancer, asthma or heart disease and gases that contribute to climate change.

The Clean Air Act requires engines to meet emissions standards, and it prohibits manufacturing, selling or installing devices that disable, bypass or reduce the effectiveness of emissions control systems.

Tampering with or overriding the systems can increase a vehicle’s power or fuel economy and may reduce maintenance costs and vehicle downtime.

While not common in Maine, the EPA has taken action around the country against dealerships and service centers accused of tampering with emissions controls. More than 30 vehicle and engine enforcement cases were resolved in 2020 nationwide, according to the EPA’s website.

Violators are subject to civil penalties up to $45,268 for each noncompliant vehicle or engine and $4,527 for each tampering event or sale of defeat device.

The complaint against APlus Trucks says the EPA requested and received a warrant for records at the business in 2019.

In an affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court of Maine that year, an environmental engineer for the agency said that he had reason to believe APlus Trucks was violating the Clean Air Act after he reviewed social media posts and a Maine State Police sergeant had met with the business’s owners.

“Those postings indicate that APlus Trucks is an entity that sells or installs devices that illegally modify or replace motor vehicle and motor vehicle engine emission control devices, including exhaust systems that remove emission after treatment devices and electronic devices that replace computerized engine control and diagnostic systems,” the affidavit says.

Court documents show two inspections took place that year after the judge granted the request for a search warrant. The complaint says the EPA then issued a notice of violation to APlus Trucks in 2020.

The company’s website says APlus Trucks was established in 2011 as a small garage specializing in autobody repair.

“Since then we have grown and evolved into a shop where we offer anything you need or want done to your truck, or check out our sales department where we can help you with your next vehicle purchase with our clean late model model inventory of diesel trucks,” the website says.


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