Some fleets use glider kits to get the benefits of the latest aerodynamic trucks with less-troublesome pre-emissions-regs engines. Photo: Deborah Lockridge

Some fleets use glider kits to get the benefits of the latest aerodynamic trucks with less-troublesome pre-emissions-regs engines. Photo: Deborah Lockridge

Two Democratic senators who oversee environmental issues sent a letter on March 12 to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, urging him to reverse his November 2017 proposal to repeal air emission standards for glider kits.

EPA’s November proposal would eliminate provisions affecting glider kits within the Phase 2 Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards. The Phase 2 rules as written would allow glider kits only for their original purpose, which was seen as reclaiming powertrains from wrecked trucks and reusing them in new bodies and chassis. Increasingly, they are being used to avoid using more costly and repair-prone cleaner-emissions engines.

Calling them “zombie trucks,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees EPA, cited adverse health effects and faulty research in their call to withdraw the rule.

In addition, two former EPA Administrators, Carol Browner and Christine Todd Whitman, who served under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively, sent a letter to Administrator Pruitt expressing deep concerns over EPA’s failure to use the best science available in its decision to repeal the final glider regulations.

Pollution and Politics

The Carper-Udall letter noted that “according to internal agency research not released until after EPA published this proposal, a new 2017 glider kit can emit up to 450 times the particulate matter (PM) pollution and up to 43 times the nitrous oxide (NOx) pollution of model year 2014 and 2015 trucks. Other EPA analyses concluded that, if left unregulated, glider vehicle emissions could prematurely kill thousands of people, and increase instance of lung cancer, chronic lung disease, heart disease, and severe asthma attacks. We are also deeply troubled that this proposal, which appears to largely benefit a single company, was influenced by an industry-funded ‘study' that is currently the subject of an official investigation into research misconduct for failing to adhere to basic scientific standards.”

The proposal to withdraw the regulation has drawn criticism from a number of fronts, from environmental groups to truck and engine makers.

Just last month, Tennessee Technical University asked the EPA to withhold any use or reference to a controversial study the university conducted on the environmental impact of glider kit vehicles until it has fully investigated the validity of the study's results.

Browner and Whitman note in their letter, "Not only does it appear that the Tennessee Tech study failed to follow proper research protocol, the conclusions of the study are contrary to a well-established understanding of the pollution from older diesel engines."

The senators' letter notes that no one from the glider industry challenged the final GHG provisions in court, yet in May of last year, Pruitt “personally met with representatives of Fitzgerald Glider Kits… the self-proclaimed, ‘largest glider kit dealer in the country’ and a political supporter of President Trump.’" Two months after that meeting, Fitzgerald and two other glider kit dealers petitioned the EPA seeking reconsideration of the glider requirements.

In addition to asking Pruitt to withdraw this “dangerous, legally questionable proposal immediately,” the letter requests non-redacted copies of documents relating to EPA scientific analyses and emissions testing, correspondence between EPA representatives and the glider kit dealers asking for the repeal, and documents related to the controversial Tennessee Tech study on glider vehicle emissions.

It also asks questions regarding the EPA’s authority to regulate glider kits. Part of the argument in favor of repealing the glider kit part of the GHG regulation has been that glider kits may not be “new motor vehicles” as defined by the Environmental Protection Act and thus not legally subject to EPA regulations.

The letter asks for a response no later than April 2.

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