Today, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe and DCA Director Paul Rodriguez announced multiple lawsuits against Manheim Remarketing Inc. and NJ-based auto dealers Murphy’s Motors of Fairview, Fargo Auto Sales & Services of Delran, and Rezzetti Enterprises of Vineland. The lawsuits allege that Manheim Remarketing Inc. and the dealers listed intentionally sold vehicles with emissions control technology that had been tampered with. According to a DEP investigation, Manheim’s two New Jersey auction sites sold or offered for sale at least 214 vehicles that were ‘clearly and explicitly’ disclosed in sales listings as emissions tampered between December 2, 2016 and March 15, 2019.
“New Jersey is standing up for our lungs by suing dirty auto dealers in our state. Auto dealers have been tampering with air pollution controls, which means they are polluting the air and swindling customers. They’ve been caught violating the law, putting more air pollutants and toxins into the air that affect us. It is important that New Jersey is holding them accountable for selling these dirty cars and trucks because we have some of the worst air pollution in the nation. Letting these vehicles on the road especially impacts overburdened communities that already have too much pollution and have high rates of asthma and respiratory illnesses,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “It is critical that New Jersey is holding polluting car dealers accountable. Inspections and enforcement are critical because they act as a deterrent. They also need to go after them for fines and damages and use that money to help reduce pollution in overburdened communities.”
According to the complaint, disabling the exhaust recirculation controls and removing the catalytic converters on a diesel pick-up truck can increase emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) by 20 times the federal limit. Removing the diesel particulate filters from diesel trucks can increase PM2.5 emissions by 10 times the federal limit. Disabling air pollution controls on gasoline-powered vehicles can cause increased tailpipe emissions of NOx, as well as certain volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide.
“We have a serious problem with air pollution in New Jersey, and tampered vehicles only make it worse. This is even more important because areas with high levels of air pollution have higher levels of coronavirus and worse health impacts from the virus. Almost half of our emissions come from mobile sources. Nearly every county in New Jersey has received an ‘F’ for their ground-level ozone from the American Lung Association. Federal limits for pollutants like NOx and PM 2.5 are already too high, and these vehicles release up to 10 times the limit for particulate matter and 20 times the limit for NOx,” said Jeff Tittel. “Air pollution in New Jersey leads to more trips to the emergency room and more risk for people with heart problems and asthma. A third of the children in our major cities suffer from asthma. Over a hundred children in New Jersey are killed every year by asthma attacks caused by ozone.”
In 2016, the Christie Administration’s New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission stopped testing tailpipe emissions from automobiles. Until then, older passenger cars were subject to mandatory testing every two years.
“One of Christie’s rollbacks was to get rid of mandatory tailpipe emissions testing in New Jersey four years ago. Without this testing, it is harder to catch when vehicles have been tampered with. We need to bring back mandatory testing so that we know that these vehicles aren’t violating air standards. The cars that are being tampered with are used cars, so they would be subject to testing. Cars that can’t meet the standards should be taken off the road or fined,” said Tittel. “When automobile owners are required to have their vehicles inspected every year, they tend to have tune-ups, oil-changes and keep their tires inflated. These vehicles run more efficiently and produce fewer emissions. They are also safer.”
The lawsuit requires Manheim to screen vehicle listings for common tampering indicators as well as perform visual inspections of vehicles in its in-state facilities. It also seeks imposition of civil penalties against Manheim and the three defendant auto dealerships - Murphy’s Motors of Fairview, Fargo Auto Sales & Services of Delran, and Rezzetti Enterprises of Vineland.
“This is an important step for New Jersey when it comes to dealing with pollution from vehicles. New Jersey also needs to step on the gas when it comes to zero-emission standards for trucks and ramping up electric vehicles. We need to pass standards like the one in California to require manufacturers to start producing zero-emission vehicles. Our state used to be a leader in innovation and transportation and can be again in clean transport. We can see the benefits of clean air and clean jobs if the state ramps it up when it comes to cutting emissions from cars, trucks, and buses,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.