The EPA is one step closer to meeting an industry request to repeal portions of greenhouse gas limits for trucks.
The Environmental Protection Agency proposed Nov. 9 to exempt glider kits, which are new truck chassis and cab assemblies built for the installation of a used engine and transmission, from greenhouse gas standards for heavy-duty trucks that the agency issued in 2016.
The glider kit industry argued that the Obama administration’s rule would have effectively destroyed its business, an argument the EPA appears to have accepted. While glider kits are a niche industry, reversing the requirements would mean more pollution that would harm human health, environmentalists said.
The move to repeal portions of the rule was expected. The EPA announced in August that it would reconsider the sections, including the provisions for glider kits and for trailers, largely at industry’s request. In May, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt met to discuss the truck rule with Tommy Fitzgerald, founder of Fitzgerald Glider Kits, one of the nation’s largest makers of the equipment.
The EPA’s proposal is a small victory and shows that the Trump EPA will not engage in the “regulatory creep” of the Obama administration, said Joe Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs and communications for the Western States Trucking Association.
“We just kind of view things as getting more even-handed,” he told Bloomberg Environment.
But opponents of the move said the EPA’s proposal to scrap the glider kit requirements closely mirrors a July 10 reconsideration petition from Fitzgerald Glider Kits and two other manufacturers. That “is certainly dubious” and “easily exposes” the flaws in the EPA’s arguments, Dave Cooke, senior vehicles analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Bloomberg Environment.
Fitzgerald Glider Kits did not return a request for comment from Bloomberg Environment.
The EPA’s proposal would switch its interpretation of a “new motor vehicle” to exclude glider kits, curtailing the agency’s ability to regulate glider vehicles’ emissions under the Clean Air Act.
“The previous administration attempted to bend the rule of law and expand the reach of the federal government in a way that threatened to put an entire industry of specialized truck manufacturers out of business,” Pruitt said in a statement. “Gliders not only provide a more affordable option for smaller owners and operators, but also serve as a key economic driver to numerous rural communities.”
In the proposal, the EPA specifically seeks comment on the use of glider kits by small businesses. The agency also requests data on whether restricting glider kits “could result in older, less safe, more-polluting trucks remaining on the road” longer.
But the EPA adopts the incorrect assumption that glider kits largely displace older vehicles, according to Cooke.
“This argument that is being made is so disingenuous and so false,” he said. In comments, “there will be a litany of examples of how these are being marketed as new and why they’re displacing new vehicles.”
Cooke also noted that the EPA’s cost-benefit analysis for the 2016 rule showed limiting emissions from glider kits could prevent at least 1,600 premature deaths. The agency presented no new data to justify reversing the emissions requirements, instead relying on data from Fitzgerald Glider Kits, he added.
“If EPA is going to make the public case these vehicles don’t pollute as much as they have said, they have to explain why,” Cooke said.
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(This story has been updated with additional reporting.)