Glider kit repeal grounded in unethical, inaccurate research

Republicans and democrats can’t seem to agree about much these days, but glider kits sure have a way of bringing politicians together.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt wants to do away with the glider kits provision, a part of EPA’s 2016 Phase 2 heavy-truck greenhouse gas emissions rule, which caps the number of nonemissions-compliant gliders assembled by each company to 300 a year and demands gliders manufactured after that number to be stamped as emissions-compliant for the model year they are built.

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For more background information on Pruitt’s efforts to repeal the glider kits provision, check out last week’s blog.

From democratic senators to George W. Bush’s former EPA administrator, democrats and republicans alike have penned letters to the EPA expressing concerns ranging from the hazardous outcomes of pollution, to the faulty, unethical research in which the repeal is grounded.

“Zombie Trucks”: putting the public at risk?

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.

Basically, the two senators claim the research shows pollution caused by glider kits could negatively affect public health. In their letter, they wrote that internal agency research found that if left unregulated, glider vehicle emissions could increase instances of lung cancer, chronic lung disease, heart disease, and severe asthma attacks, ultimately leading to the early death of thousands of people.

Specifically, the research they’ve cited, which wasn’t made public until after the EPA proposed the glider kit repeal, 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.” 

Photo by MattGush/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by MattGush/iStock / Getty Images

Concerns about unethical research practices

Two past EPA administrators, Christine Todd Whitman and Carol Browner, also wrote to Pruitt and the EPA to articulate their unease about the glider kit repeal.

The EPA is supposed to base its decisions on thorough, accurate research and information. However, it seems the research in which this particular decision is anything but thorough and accurate, or ethical for that matter.

Browner and Whitman’s letter focused on concerns with the research in which the glider kit repeal is based. According to Browner and Whitman, the Tennessee Technological University study was grounded in unethical practices.

It’s hard to disagree with this point, as Tennessee Tech’s study was funded (just over $70,000, to be exact) by Fitzgerald Glider Kits, according to a Washington Post article. Tennessee Tech’s own president actually put forth a letter asking that the EPA avoid “any use or reference” to its study until investigations into potential research misconduct are complete. 

“By Tennessee Tech’s own public admission, in this case EPA was informed by a flawed study that does not meet the high ethical standards for scientific analysis required by the Clean Air Act,” Browner and Whitman write in their letter.

So what do you think? Do you share their concerns with the EPA’s proposed glider kit reveal, or do you think these claims are nothing more than politicians’ scare tactics?