SALT LAKE CITY — First the Diesel Brothers. Now 4 Wheel Parts.
The Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment group is pursuing a second Clean Air Act citizens enforcement action, this time against corporate entities that operate 4 Wheel Parts Performance Centers, a nationwide seller of vehicle exhaust systems and other modifications.
The doctors’ group also is in the middle of a case it filed in 2017 against the Woods Cross-based Diesel Brothers, stars of a Discovery channel reality show, for disabling emission controls on at least 20 pickup trucks and selling “defeat devices” to consumers.
4 Wheel Parts has two locations in Utah: One in Salt Lake City and the other at 284 W. 12th St. in Ogden.
TAP Worldwide, the principal named defendant, operates 4 Wheel Parts. TAP Worldwide in turn is owned by Polaris Industries Inc., which has at least 30 brands, including off-road vehicles, snowmobiles and boats.
In a U.S. District Court suit filed in September 2019, the doctors group is seeking monetary penalties, remedial action and a permanent injunction due to 4 Wheel Parts’ selling of motor vehicle components “that have the principal effect of defeating, bypassing or rendering inoperative emission control devices.”
Three device lines were highlighted in the suit:
Exhaust system kits, which bypass catalytic converters on diesel and gas-powered cars and trucks, but mostly Ford, Chevrolet, GMC and Ram pickup trucks
“Race performance” catalytic converter replacements for cars
Electronic reprogrammers, which allow vehicles to defeat emission controls
The doctors’ group is asking the court to order 4 Wheel Parts to pay monetary penalties “to provide a financial incentive of sufficient size to all Utah consumers of its aftermarket defeat parts to effect the retrieval of at least 90 percent of such parts sold over the last five years, and pay for the full restoration of each vehicle’s emission control devices to their original condition.”
The defendants’ actions, the doctors group contends, “have caused gas and diesel motor vehicles operating in Utah to exceed their federal emission standards, increasing the discharge of harmful pollutants in a region already plagued by unhealthy air.”
In court documents filed Jan. 7, TAP Worldwide urged Judge Jill Parrish to dismiss the suit, contending the Clean Air Act was not intended by Congress to penalize parts sellers without evidence of direct causation.
The company argued the doctors’ group “can trace no injury whatsoever to any specific act of TAP Worldwide. The fact that the complaint does not, and cannot, allege that TAP Worldwide discharged a single pollutant alone demonstrates this.”
The doctors’ complaint, TAP Worldwide, argued, “fails to connect TAP Worldwide’s actions to any air pollution within the State of Utah or elsewhere.”
The company pointed out that it does not manufacture the defeat devices, but only sells products made by others.
“There is no allegation that TAP Worldwide discharged any pollutant. Rather, each allegation is premised on TAP Worldwide providing something to a third party and that third party discharging a pollutant,” the company added.
In its complaint, the doctors’ group asserted, however, that the defeat components sold by 4 Wheel Parts drastically increase harmful emissions that cause a host of afflictions in the Utah population.
The pollutants trigger diseases that range from short-term increased rates of heart attacks, strokes and death, to long-term neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, the doctors’ group said.
“Original, fully-functioning catalytic converters in motor vehicles are able to reduce the emission of nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide by 80–95 percent,” the group said. “Removing an original, fully-functioning catalytic converter in a motor vehicle, and replacing it with a hollow tube, can cause a five- to twenty-fold increase in the vehicle’s emissions.”