Springfield towing company altered trucks to violate Clean Air Act, court says

The owner of Affordable Towing in Springfield pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts related to violating the federal Clean Air Act.

Courts documents say Dennis Cleveland oversaw the modification and deletion of emissions control systems of diesel trucks for at least two years, between July 2020 and October 2022. They say the purpose of this was to allow the company to operate the vehicles without the expense of installing and maintaining the devices, which are required under the Clean Air Act.

The documents say Cleveland bought straight pipes, race pipes and exhaust gas recirculation delete kits among other items intended to modify the vehicles. They say he also downloaded software that tampered with diagnostic systems reports of emissions on the trucks.

Those diagnostic systems alert the driver if the emissions control system is malfunctioning in some way. If the problem persists without remedy, the system can force the trucks into "limp mode," which greatly reduces the speed of a truck to as low as 5 mph. That feature is designed to incentive the driver or owner to repair the system.

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The Clean Air Act is designed to protect the nation's air quality by reducing vehicle emissions that release pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, non-methane hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. These pollutants have been shown to cause cancer, as well as lung, neurological, cardiovascular and immune system damage. Diesel exhaust is one of the largest sources of particulate matter and other pollutants, according to federal prosecutors.

Cleveland entered into a plea agreement with the court, but sentencing has not yet taken place. The penalty for these charges, which were broken into two felony counts, is a minimum of probation. The maximum penalty is different for the two charges.

The first charge of conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The second charge of tampering with a Clean Air Act device carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Feds say Springfield towing company violated Clean Air Act