EPA advisory board to revisit the science justifying Pruitt's glider truck repeal proposal

An Environmental Protection Agency advisory board is revisiting the merit and validity of information used to warrant repealing an Obama-era regulation capping the production of glider trucks.

Back in November, the EPA published its proposal which aims to repeal the glider kits provision, included in EPA’s 2016 Phase 2 heavy-truck greenhouse gas emissions rule. This rule limits the number of nonemissions-compliant gliders built by each company to 300 a year and requires gliders beyond that number to be certified as emissions-compliant for the model year they are built.

The EPA advisory board is having to think twice about this proposal and the research in which it is grounded. This decision to reconsider the glider repeal plan comes on the heels of opposition felt from environmentalists, scientists, academics, and trade groups at a recent EPA Science Advisory Board meeting. 

The EPA advisory board, composed of 40 experts who review agency research programs and plans, offers guidance to both the EPA and its administrator in scientific matters. 

During the May 31 meeting, some board members berated the EPA for the grounds of its Nov. 16 proposal that heavily leaned on a “recently disavowed special-interest group study and cherry-picked comments” from the docket, said Glen Kedzie, vice president and energy and environmental counsel for American Trucking Associations.

ATA remains in opposition of the EPA’s proposed repeal.

Our message has remained consistent. New regulations must be justified, be economically and technologically achievable, based on sound data and science, not create major market shifts or disruptions in equipment purchasing cycles, and be developed with an eye toward transparency.
— Glen Kedzie, vice president and energy and environmental counsel for American Trucking Associations

One of the major issues with this glider kit repeal is its basis in a faulty Tennessee Tech University study that is currently under investigation for research misconduct. The EPA also claimed that it doesn’t have legal authority to govern the production of gliders because they aren’t seen as new motor vehicles.

This isn’t the first time concerns have been voiced about the glider repeal.

Earlier this spring, legislators on both sides of the aisle penned letters to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt encouraging him to think twice about his administration’s proposal. 

In a March 12 letter, Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.), called the EPA’s proposal “dangerous” and “legally questionable,” urging the administration to withdraw the legislation immediately.

“Glider trucks, also known as ‘zombie trucks,’ look like new trucks on the outside — and are advertised and sold as new — but are equipped with old, high-polluting diesel engines on the inside,” the two Democrats wrote.

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Furthermore, EPA decisions must be grounded in the “adequacy of supporting science” and an SAB work group is questioning the scientific grounds of the glider repeal.

“The scientific and technical statements in the proposed rule, and the scope of analyses in the proposed rule, are dubious and highly questionable,” the work group wrote.

The work group also mentioned how the EPA ignored its own study, published a mere four days after the glider proposal. This research claims that a new 2017 glider truck can emit up to 450 times the particulate matter (PM) pollution, and up to 43 times the nitrous oxide pollution, of the model year 2014 and 2015 trucks.