FARMINGTON — Davis County would run a program to restore emission controls on illegally modified pickup trucks under terms of an agreement that hinges on the outcome of an air pollution lawsuit against the “Diesel Brothers” of reality TV fame.
The agreement between the county and the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment contemplates a program that would commence once a court order or a settlement resolves a civil suit the group filed seeking enforcement of the federal Clean Air Act.
U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled in March the Diesel Brothers are subject to civil penalties for selling trucks modified with “defeat” devices to foil vehicle pollution controls.
But no penalties have yet been decided as the case heads toward trial. The two sides have held settlement talks but nothing has been decided.
Brian Hatch, Davis County Health Department director, said Monday the agreement signed by the county and the UPHE will not take effect unless funds result from the lawsuit.
“Right now this agreement just shows that all of us are willing to work together to reduce the causes of air pollution,” Hatch said. “If, and only if, the court orders it or a settlement is reached. There are no funds at this time.”
UPHE Executive Director Jonny Vasic said the program would apply not just to trucks modified by Diesel Brothers.
“What we are looking for is for them to put up money to handle remediation of defeat devices,” Vasic said. “What we’re after is cleaner air. If there are bad players, we want them to do the right thing and clean up the trucks.”
Hatch said people with diesels that fail inspections could apply for funds from the program. The county would contract with certified repair facilities to do the work.
“We have a percentage of diesel trucks that fail emissions,” Hatch said. “We don’t care why. The gist of it is the vehicle owner would apply for this to help them get their vehicle back to emissions standards.”
Under the agreement, up to $6,000 per truck could be granted for repair of eligible vehicles.
Trucks from all Clean Air Act non-attainment areas on the Wasatch Front would be eligible: Cache, Box Elder, Weber, Davis, Salt Lake, Tooele and Utah counties.
Hatch said UPHE approached his department, asking if it would be willing to operate the program.
“It definitely would have a positive impact in reducing emissions,” he said.
The court case began in 2017.
UPHE filed a citizen enforcement action against three Diesel Brothers corporate entities and three individuals, seeking to stop the sales and obtain a $100,000 judgment to go toward clean air programs.
The environmental group said the modified trucks spewed harmful particulate pollution contributing to the Wasatch Front’s severe air quality problems.
The defendants include David Sparks, star of the “Diesel Brothers” TV show, and his companies Diesel Power Gear, 4x4 Anything and B&W Motors. Also named were Joshua Stuart, chief operating and financial officer, and Keaton Hoskins, who among other things marketed modified trucks on DieselSellerz.com.
The doctors sued after noticing vehicles spewing black smoke on the Discovery Channel show where “Heavy D” Sparks and friends buy diesel trucks, modify them at Sparks Motors and market them online.
After Shelby’s ruling establishing liability, Diesel Brothers attorney Cole Cannon said the owners “are ready, willing and able to rectify any harm caused by these 17 trucks (listed in the suit) and implement better practices.”
Shelby ruled the defendants were liable for selling vehicles with defeat devices, plus giving away altered trucks in sweepstakes. Pollution control equipment had been removed and devices were installed to defeat pollution controls on vehicles.
Trucks with defeat devices “emit 30 or more times the emissions of stock trucks,” UPHE attorney Reed Zars said in March. “It only takes 1 or 2 percent of the fleet to double the emissions there on the front. This is not an insignificant issue at all.”