Legislators express concern over proposed repeal of glider kit regulation

Is the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposition to reverse an Obama administration decision limiting the number of glider kits manufactured this year a potentially dangerous decision motivated by industry greed?

Legislators on both sides of the aisle seem to think so.

In a bipartisan effort, Congressmen and Senators have written three separate letters to persuade EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to think twice about his proposal to repeal an Obama era regulation limiting the number of glider kits manufactured each year.

Companies that make gliders typically combine a new truck body and cab with a salvaged powertrain, according to an NPR article. “The vintage of the reused engine is important: Many of them date to before 2010, when the EPA tightened emissions standards for pollutants such as nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emitted by heavy duty diesel engines,” the article says.

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Pruitt is trying to repeal the glider kits provision, included in EPA’s 2016 Phase 2 heavy-truck greenhouse gas emissions rule, which 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 actually published this proposal back in November, claiming that its interpretation of the Clean Air Act has changed from the Obama administration to the Trump administration.

According to the epa.gov rule summary, this repeal was based on a proposed interpretation of the Clean Air Act (CAA) under which glider vehicles would be found not to constitute “new motor vehicles” within the meaning of CAA section 216(3), glider engines would be found not to constitute “new motor vehicle engines” within the meaning of CAA section 216(3), and glider kits would not be treated as “incomplete” new motor vehicles. 

Under this proposed interpretation, EPA would lack authority to regulate glider vehicles, glider engines, and glider kits under CAA section 202(a)(1).

According to a statement by the EPA:

“In proposing a new interpretation of the relevant statutory language, EPA now believes that its prior reading was not the best reading, and that the Agency failed to consider adequately the most important threshold consideration: i.e., whether or not Congress, in defining 'new motor vehicle' ... had a specific intent to include ... such a thing as a glider vehicle – a vehicle comprised both of new and previously owned components."

Members from both sides of the aisle in Congress and the Senate beg to differ, and have written three different letters expressing concerns ranging from the deadly effects of pollution, to loss of jobs in the manufacturing and rebuilding industries, to a potential negative impact on the economy.

What exactly has these members of Congress so concerned? Check back next week as we outline their concerns with this proposal and explore just what this decision would mean for the transportation industry, the economy, and the environment.