Navistar sues EPA over competitors’ NOx-busting systems

| 7/13/2011

In yet another battle in the long-running war between truck makers over SCR and EGR emission treatment technologies, one major truck manufacturer has sued the Environmental Protection Agency.

Navistar, based in Warrenville, IL, says EPA systems designed and built by other truck makers to meet 2010 emissions standards are easily circumvented, polluting the air and providing customers with a cheaper and unfair market choice.

“We’re really just trying to seek a level playing field,” said Steve Schrier, Navistar spokesman. Schrier declined to comment further on the suit, citing its litigation status.

Navistar’s NOx-lowering technology is EGR, which stands for exhaust gas recirculation. It lowers NOx by re-circulating exhaust back into the engine. SCR is selective catalytic reduction, which mixes urea with NOx emissions to drop NOx emissions to acceptable levels. The urea must be purchased and put into tanks by a truck operator.

At the heart of the lawsuit are the actions taken by truck makers to meet 2010 EPA emissions standards. The 2010 standards build from the 2007 MY engine standards, which further decreased diesel particulate from earlier engine standards. For 2010 model year engines, NOx, or oxides of nitrogen, were treated by either EGR – used by Navistar truck engines – or SCR – used by other truck manufacturers.

According to court documents, urea-based SCR requires truck drivers to “frequently fill up with a fluid that is essential for the SCR system to work,” the suit reads. “Those fill-ups are both expensive and inconvenient for the customers of SCR engine makers.”

When the tank of urea is empty, emissions increase “3 to 40 times.”

“As a result, EPA unlawfully and preferentially helped (and intends to continue to help) SCR engine manufactures by making it easier for them to compete with other emission control technologies by reducing or eliminating the need for drivers to refill with DEF, which in turn allows SCR engines to become heavy polluters above the lawful emission standards,” the suit reads.

According to court documents, Navistar tested SCR-equipped engines and found they’re “programmed to run for lengthy periods without DEF, with the wrong fluid, with frozen fluid or with the SCR system disconnected … thus, with zero SCR control of NOx emissions during those disabled conditions.”

Through the lawsuit, Navistar says it is challenging the failure of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to “exercise her non-discretionary duty under the Clean Air Act and applicable regulations to test heavy-duty, on-highway SCR diesel engines in the manner that reflects the way that EPA has authorized them to be driven on the road.”

Navistar seeks a declaration that Jackson failed to exercise her duty for testing the SCR diesel engines with the SCR system turned off. They also want an order mandating that Jackson conduct certification testing of SCR diesel engines and that she retest on-highway SCR diesel engines that have already been certified. They also want attorney’s fees and other litigation costs.

Navistar owns International and MaxxForce diesel engines.

Potshots between Navistar and SCR engine makers have routinely gone public at venues like the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, where representatives from the competing companies continued the debate this year.