A Departing Blow to Clean Air on Pruitt's Final Day

Friday may have been disgraced EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's last day in office of the agency in charge of protecting the nation's environment, but he still managed to roll back a regulation to create lasting air pollution far greater than VW did.
July 9, 2018, 5am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt's resignation did not take effect Friday, as posted here earlier, but rather by "close of business" on Friday, just long enough to do more lasting harm to air quality and public health and benefit a manufacturer (and campaign contributor) of what are called "glider trucks," new trucks with old engines, by repealing another Obama-era regulation, reports Eric Lipton of The New York Times on July 6.

The glider truck concept began so the engines of relatively new trucks that had been involved in accidents could be transferred to new truck bodies. But as the emissions control requirements went into effect in recent years, companies like Fitzgerald Glider Kits of Crossville, Tenn., began to attract thousands of buyers from around the United States — including many small fleet owners — that wanted to evade the new rules, getting trucks they argued were cheaper to run.

"From the outside, a glider looks like any other modern Peterbilt, Kenworth, Freightliner, or Western Star semi tractor," wrote researchers Rachel Muncrief and Josh Miller for the International Council on Clean Transportation on Dec. 1, 2017. But look under the hood and things start to get terrifying. Inside you will find an engine that was thought to be long dead—an engine that emits uncontrolled levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM)."

ICCT, working with West Virginia University, was responsible for exposing the Volkswagon emissions testing cheating almost three years ago, which Lipton references by way of comparison:

One year’s worth of truck sales was estimated to release 13 times as much nitrogen oxide as all of the Volkswagen diesel cars with fraudulent emissions controls, a scheme that resulted in a criminal case against the company and more than $4 billion in fines.

By contrast, "NOx and PM emissions from modern diesel engines are more than 90% below what they were 15 years ago, thanks to EPA regulations," add ICCT's Muncrief and Miller.

Congressional and industry opposition

"Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have written three letters to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt asking him to reconsider his proposal to repeal an Obama administration regulation that would limit the number of glider kits manufactured each year," reported Eric Miller for Transport Topics on April 15.

The repeal of the regulation (via a loophole) created strange bedfellows, with the mainstream trucking industry standing with the environmental community.

"The continued growth of gliders creates a competitive disadvantage to fleets purchasing new equipment and circumvents today’s stringent emissions standards for PM, NOx and greenhouse gases," testified [pdf] Glen Kedzie for the American Trucking Associations at a hearing on EPA's proposed repeal of emission requirements for glider vehicles, glider engines, and glider kits rule on Dec. 4, 2017.

Some conservative media outlets focused on costs rather than emissions.

"Glider kits became an incredibly important source of trucks for small companies unable to afford newer engines, especially in the wake of Clinton administration trucking regulations that went into full effect in 2010," reported Michael Bastasch for The Daily Caller on May 2.

“The new truck industry, led by foreign-owned Volvo Trucks (whose largest shareholder is a Chinese company), lobbied the Obama EPA to ensnare us in an ongoing rulemaking to establish emissions standards for new trucks,” wrote Tommy Fitzgerald, Sr., CEO of Fitzgerald Glider Kits, in an op-ed for The Daily Caller.

Pruitt may be gone, but his replacement was party to the decision

"Vickie Patton, the general counsel at the Environmental Defense Fund, blamed both Mr. Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler, the No. 2 official at the E.P.A. who will become its acting administrator [on July 9]," adds Lipton.

“Pruitt and Wheeler are creating a loophole for super polluting freight trucks that will fill our children’s lungs with toxic diesel pollution, ignoring public comments from moms and leading businesses across the country,” she said.

Lipton goes on to describe how the rollback of the regulation will enable Fitzgerald to manufacture more glider trucks, the impact on air quality, and Congressional objections to the rollback.
Full Story:
Published on Friday, July 6, 2018 in The New York Times
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