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February 1, 2019 4:45 PM, EST

EPA's Andrew Wheeler Says New Glider Truck Rule Would Consider Impact on Manufacturers

Glider Kit Truck Rule A Fitzgerald glider kit installed in a Peterbilt 389. (Fitzgerald Glider Kits via YouTube)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to tailor its new glider truck emissions standard to help protect the glider industry from “going out of business or substantially reducing its economic growth potential,” agency chief Andrew Wheeler said in a document sent to Congress.

In written response to questions submitted by senators after his public Jan. 16 confirmation hearing, Wheeler said that the most appropriate means for analyzing costs and benefits of glider trucks would be to compare the trucks’ remanufactured engines to used trucks, since gliders “tend to be bought in lieu of used, and not new, trucks.”

“While we do not yet have a firm schedule for completing a rule, we plan to move ahead as expeditiously as practicable,” Wheeler said in the 150-page document, obtained by Transport Topics, which addresses a variety of environmental policy questions. The agency earlier said it would issue the new rule by the end of 2019.

Kedzie

Kedzie

But Glen Kedzie, energy and environmental affairs counsel for American Trucking Associations, noted that EPA cannot set a separate emissions standard just for glider trucks.

“Emission standards are based on public health, not based upon what the glider industry wants,” Kedzie said.

Jed Mandel, president of the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, called Wheeler’s statement “concerning.”

“There are important rulemakings that EPA should be working on,” Mandel told TT. “Any further work on gliders will divert EPA’s limited resources from more important tasks. We will watch carefully for EPA’s next steps.”

During Wheeler’s nomination hearing, held before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Democratic members criticized his efforts to roll back Obama-era regulations on fuel efficiency and carbon emissions from power plants, while Republican members praised his leadership and experience on environmental efforts.

Senate Committee on Enviro... by on Scribd

Glider trucks combine new truck bodies with older and oftentimes rebuilt engines. They have long been the target of criticism by environmental groups, truck manufacturers and segments of the trucking industry, since the kits’ older engines do not meet current federal emissions standards. According to an EPA study from 2017, glider trucks can emit up to 450 times more diesel particulate matter and up to 40 times more nitrogen oxides than new trucks.

Andrew Wheeler

Wheeler

Separately, three Democratic House committee leaders in a Jan. 28 letter asked Wheeler to provide both internal and external agency documents related to gliders. Expressing concerns over “harmful exhaust” from glider trucks, the lawmakers said in the letter that their committees want information on EPA’s process to develop possible regulatory revisions of an Obama-era rule limiting production of glider trucks to 300 annually per manufacturer.

“The [Energy and Commerce] committee seeks additional information on this process to ensure EPA policies are consistent with the agency’s own scientific conclusions and do not benefit a small set of manufacturers at the expense of human health and the environment,” the letter said.

The letter was signed by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Rep. Diana DeGette, (D-Colo.), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and Rep. Paul Tonko, (D-N.Y.), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change.

The Obama-era glider truck rule is being enforced by EPA through the end of 2019 after a series of on-again, off-again decisions that began in November 2017 when then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt proposed repealing the rule. Last July, Pruitt suspended enforcement of the rule, but a few days later Wheeler lifted the suspension after Pruitt left the agency under a cloud of ethics violations and lawsuits filed by environmental groups and several states.

The documents sought by the three House leaders include:

  • Electronic communications regarding glider trucks among several top EPA officials from February 2018 to the present.
  • Copies of communications between or among the top EPA officials and employees of Fitzgerald Glider Kits, the nation’s largest glider manufacturer.
  • Copies of any briefing materials regarding gliders prepared for the agency’s Office of Air and Radiation Assistant Administrator William Wehrum from June 2018 to present.
  • An explanation of whether EPA has initiated or conducted any enforcement activities relating to Fitzgerald.

EPA did not return an e-mail seeking comment.