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July 6, 2018 4:00 PM, EDT

Pruitt’s Exit Prompts Lawmakers, Industry to Shift Spotlight to Acting EPA Chief

EPA building Getty Images

The end of Scott Pruitt’s run as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was announced July 5, and has members of Congress and stakeholders already focusing on his successor.

The freight industry’s aim is to determine how truck-centric the agency will be under new leadership, and also to find out how emissions policy will be handled going forward in President Donald Trump’s administration.

EPA deputy administrator Andrew Wheeler was tapped to take on the role of acting chief starting July 9.

Andrew Wheeler

Wheeler

One ongoing initiative at the agency is the review by an advisory board of the quality and relevance of scientific and technical information that was integral in justifying the EPA’s proposal to repeal under Pruitt an Obama administration regulation that limits the production of glider trucks.

Glen Kedzie, vice president and energy and environmental counsel at American Trucking Associations, said his group is ready to discuss this and other issues with the agency. “ATA looks forward to sharing our industry’s concerns with acting administrator Wheeler and working with the agency to ensure common-sense solutions are achieved,” he told Transport Topics.

Should Wheeler be Trump’s nominee for the top job, he’d likely face a slew of opposition in the Senate. Wheeler lobbied on behalf of coal firm Murray Energy Corp. prior to his confirmation in April to the deputy post, which he won by the narrow margin of 53-45. At EPA, he has vowed to stay clear from former lobbying clients.

“Elevating former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to head the EPA is only trading one fossil fuel friend for another. We must continue to fight the fossil-fuel entrenched interests that have gripped the EPA and want to undermine the public’s health and progress on climate action,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Commerce Committee.

Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, ranking Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, emphasized his intention to meet with Wheeler to “understand how he intends to get to work immediately to restore the public’s trust in the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Carper was highly critical of Pruitt’s tenure at EPA. During that 17-month run, critics questioned many of Pruitt’s budgetary decisions, such as first-class air travel.

The environment committee’s chairman, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), championed Pruitt’s penchant for rolling back regulations and expressed confidence Wheeler would carry on that legacy.

“I look forward to the confirmation of the next head of the EPA. In the meantime, I know assistant administrator Andrew Wheeler is well-prepared to continue the progress already made under President Trump,” Barrasso said, in a statement issued soon after Pruitt’s resignation.

The glider kit advisory board review will likely command a share of Wheeler’s time. ATA, for one, opposes the agency’s proposal to repeal the glider regulation. In fact, the advisory board’s creation was prompted by recent testimony largely in opposition to the proposal for repeal.

The EPA administrator is not legally bound to recommendations made by the advisory panel.

Separately, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has asked the agency to reconsider the proposed repeal of the glider kit regulation, which sets limits on the number of the vehicles that can be built in a year.

Glider trucks are a combination of new truck bodies with older engines. A provision included in EPA’s 2016 Phase 2 heavy-truck greenhouse gas emissions rule limits the number of gliders with engines that pre-date current emissions regulations that can be built by a company to 300 a year. It also requires gliders beyond that number to be certified as emissions-compliant for the model year they are built.