EPA still reviewing glider rule as it’s moved to ‘long-term actions’ list

December 2018/January 2019

Mark Schremmer

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Even though the Environmental Protection Agency moved its proposal to repeal emissions requirements for glider vehicles to its “long-term actions” list, it doesn’t mean the agency has given up on the measure.

“While the EPA has filed the reconsideration of the glider kit repeal under its long-term timeline in the Unified Regulatory Agenda, it is just a formality to file the rule as EPA staff continue to review, analyze and consider a final solution as to whether to file a repeal of the glider kit rule,” said Nile Elam, OOIDA’s director of legislative affairs.

“The timeline suggested in the Unified Regulatory Agenda in no way confirms the EPA’s desired course of action of unwillingness to move forward, rather just a filing mechanism while the agency works toward a conclusive and final rule.”

As part of the Trump administration’s Fall 2018 Unified Regulatory Agenda released on Oct. 17, EPA placed the November 2017 proposed repeal in its long-term actions list, which is typically for rules the agency expects to take at least a year before the next regulatory action.

Under the direction of former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the EPA attempted to remove glider vehicles, glider engines and glider kits from the Obama-era Greenhouse Gas Phase II regulations. Gliders are remanufactured truck engines in new truck bodies.

However, the proposal received significant opposition from environmental groups and was never elevated to a final rule after the comment period ended.

In July, the EPA announced it would delay enforcement of a cap on the number of glider vehicles through 2019. However, the EPA and Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler reversed that decision after environmentalist groups filed a lawsuit over the decision not to enforce the regulation. Under the current regulation, glider manufacturers are limited to building 300 trucks in 2018. Backing off enforcement would have meant that glider manufacturers could have produced as many gliders as they did in 2017, when they were limited to the number of gliders they built in their biggest production year between 2010 and 2014.

Earlier in October, seven Republican lawmakers wrote to Wheeler, saying that the existing regulation on gliders could put the industry in “financial ruin” and asked for the compliance date to be pushed back.

“The glider kit and truck industry are facing financial ruin due to the annual arbitrary production cap,” the letter stated. “According to the glider industry, hundreds of American workers in the industry have been laid off in the last three months. The glider kit and truck industry will cease to exist in short order without meaningful relief.”

It was also announced in October that Tennessee Tech University denounced portions of its study regarding glider emissions.

“The university has concluded its internal investigation and has found that certain conclusions reported in the June 2017 letter were not accurate,” Trudy Harper, vice chairman of Tennessee Tech’s board of trustees, wrote in a letter sent to the Fitzgerald Glider Kits, the Environmental Protection Agency and Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn.

The original study, which concluded that glider emissions were at or below the levels of new trucks, came under fire in February when a New York Times story questioned the university’s relationship with Crossville, Tenn.-based Fitzgerald Glider Kits.

“The intent of the subject research was to conduct relative comparisons of emissions from (original equipment manufacturer) engines and engines remanufactured with the sponsoring company’s glider kits,” Harper wrote. “These tests were intended only to establish a baseline comparison of the two groups of engines. The university’s review of the research has found that the research itself was methodologically sound and that the methods, methodology and measurements used were appropriate for the project based on the project’s original intent.”

The proposed rule did cite the Tennessee Tech study was mentioned in a petition for reconsideration from representatives of the glider kit industry. However, the study was not included in the EPA’s Basis for the Proposed Repeal section. Simply, the proposal was based on the idea that gliders aren’t new trucks and shouldn’t be regulated as new trucks.

Tennessee Tech’s research wasn’t the only glider study to receive scrutiny. The Office of Inspector General for the EPA announced in September that it would investigate allegations that members of the agency colluded with Volvo representatives to prohibit the use

of gliders. LL

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.