The manager of a Ridgefield repair shop was fined $10,000 and sentenced to serve 30 days of community service for altering diesel trucks and violating Washington’s Clean Air Act.
Nicholas L. Akerill, pleaded guilty Sept. 14 in Clark County District Court to a motor vehicle emission control systems violation, court records show.
In May 2021, Akerill, along with the owners of RPM Northwest, Sean and Tracy Coiteux, were indicted in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on one count of conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and 11 counts of violating the Clean Air Act. The federal case is pending.
The indictment states the owners and manager conspired to remove federally mandated emissions monitoring devices from diesel trucks, causing the trucks to pollute the air at rates far in excess of federal limits. They modified hundreds of trucks over a three-year period and earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for the work, according to the indictment.
When federal agents served a search warrant at the Ridgefield shop, they found that between January 2018 and January 2021, it had illegally modified emissions monitoring systems on 375 diesel trucks; it was paid $536,000 for the work, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Akerill’s local case.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates the amount of pollutants vehicles can emit under the Clean Air Act. Diesel exhaust is one of the largest sources of particulate matter and other pollutants, the indictment states.
The modification work is marketed toward truck owners to improve horsepower, torque and other characteristics of a diesel engine. EPA studies found a diesel truck that receives this modification can produce the pollutants of 30 to 300 similar compliant trucks, according to the indictment.
To conceal the removal of the emissions monitoring systems, employees at RPM Northwest referred to the work on invoices as an upgrade. Akerill used tuning software on his cellphone and reprogrammed the trucks’ on-board diagnostics, the affidavit states.
The owners and manager also agreed they would not discuss the work over the phone or advertise the service, and they would discourage customers from discussing on social media that RPM Northwest performed those services, according to court records.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said on Twitter that Akerill’s guilty plea was one of three convictions in cases against people and companies who intentionally removed emissions control systems from diesel trucks.
“Our goal: shut down this illegal practice that pollutes our air,” Ferguson said on Twitter.