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Local environmental group targets “rolling coal” offenders

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Image from notice of intent to sue filed by Northwest Environmental Defense Center.

“Rolling coal” is a vile act and one of the many deviant behaviors commonly displayed by people who operate motor vehicles.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, let us explain how it works.

Imagine you’re out enjoying a nice bike ride on a beautiful road. Then the driver of a large diesel truck comes up next to you and purposely slams on the gas pedal to emit a huge plume of toxic black exhaust right in your face.

We told you it was vile. But unfortunately it happens more than you might think.

“We feel there should be accountability for this sort of hostile, mean-spirited, environmentally harmful, and ultimately dangerous behavior.”
— Mark Riskedahl, executive director Northwest Environmental Defense Center

We reported on rolling coal a few times in 2014 (including once when someone rolled coal and the bike rider happened to be a police officer) and our stories caught the eye of the Northwest Environmental Defense Center at Lewis & Clark Law School. NEDC Executive Director Mark Riskedahl told us last week that they’ve started a “rolling coal accountability project” because it pollutes the air and it’s just plain, “morally reprehensible behavior.”

The practice has also been deemed illegal by the Environmental Protection Agency and is part of the Obama administration’s efforts to improve air quality.

Also fueling Riskedahl’s work: his wife Melissa Powers is a bicycle rider and law professor who happens to teach a course on the Clean Air Act at Lewis & Clark. She was recently a rolling coal victim herself while riding near Manzanita on the Oregon coast.


Riskedahl says his team (made up of law student volunteers) are putting together a list of potential targets for enforcement actions. They are specifically going after retailers who sell and/or install special devices that allow truck owners to bypass emissions control devices.

And the NEDC wants your help. “We would love to identify the businesses in the region that have developed a reputation for being at the forefront of this hobby,” Riskedahl says.

The NEDC has already partnered with a group of attorneys in Utah and have sent a letter of intent to sue to Diesel Brothers, a Utah-based business that operates and sells emissions control defeat devices.

Here’s an excerpt from the 16-page letter (PDF) that threatens the website owners with federal prosecution under violation of section 203 of the federal Clean Air Act:

Although diesel truck manufacturers such as Ford, Dodge and GMC design and install thousands of dollars of pollution control equipment and software in each of their modern trucks to meet federal emission standards, Diesel Brothers have been reversing that progress with the turn of a wrench and the click of a touchpad. The public is left to pay for the pain and suffering of air pollution related diseases such as asthma, emphysema and lung cancer.5 In submitting this letter of intent to sue, UPHE seeks to protect the public health, guided by the ethical standards of the Utah Medical Association “to prevent sickness whenever possible, to alleviate suffering, to cure sickness and disease insofar as it is humanly possible, and to prolong meaningful life.

Exhibits to the letter include eBay listings that advertise “full delete” (parlance for no emissions control) and videos like the one below that was posted online by “Heavy D Sparks“:

The letter also points out that dealers of these devices are subject to a fine of $37,500 for each illegally modified vehicle or engine and people who use these devices are subject to a civil penalty of up to $3,750 each day they are used.

Riskedahl wants to expand their work into the Portland metro area and they’re looking for leads. They are looking for retailers and individuals. “License plate numbers may come in handy too,” he says. You can reach the NEDC via their website.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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