Environmentalist group sues EPA over glider enforcement decision

July 18, 2018

Mark Schremmer

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An environmentalist group filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency on July 17 over its recent decision to delay enforcement of a cap that would limit the number of glider trucks that could be built.

The Environmental Defense Fund filed the lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Earlier this month, the EPA announced that it would exercise “enforcement discretion” on glider manufacturers through 2019 to reduce the impact on the industry while the agency evaluates its proposal to repeal emission requirements for gliders.

Based on the Obama-era regulation, glider manufacturers were going to be limited to building 300 trucks in 2018. Backing off enforcement means glider manufacturers will be able to produce 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.

In November 2017, the EPA proposed to repeal emission requirements for glider vehicles, glider engines and glider kits. The proposal was met with opposition from environmentalist groups and has yet to become a final rule.

The EPA said the decision not to enforce the cap is to avoid injuring the glider industry while the agency works on a resolution.

“After taking into consideration the public comments received as well as engagement with stakeholders, EPA has determined that additional evaluation of a number of matters is required before it can take final action on one or more aspects of the proposal,” EPA spokeswoman Molly Block said in a statement. “Until a final rule can be completed to bring regulatory certainty to glider manufacturers, the agency is considering interim steps to reduce severe impacts on the industry.”

However, the Environmental Defense Fund claims that the EPA and former Administrator Scott Pruitt overstepped with its decision. Pruitt announced his resignation July 5, and Andrew Wheeler will serve as the EPA’s leader until President Donald Trump appoints a successor.

“EPA’s decision not to enforce those regulations nationwide paves the way for the immediate production and sale of these ‘gliders,’ which will operate for decades and emit orders of magnitude more pollutants than trucks compliant with current pollution-control standards,” the lawsuit stated. “The agency’s refusal to implement its own regulations will result in premature mortality on a massive scale, and it threatens to undermine decades of progress in combating diesel-exhaust pollution.”

A study conducted by EPA researchers said that nitrous oxide emissions were 43 times higher on glider vehicles than they were on new heavy-duty trucks. Meanwhile, a Tennessee Tech University study concluded that gliders have similar emissions.

Both studies have been met with scrutiny. Several members of the House committee on Science, Space, and Technology recently requested information from Wheeler regarding allegations that EPA employees colluded with Volvo representatives to prohibit the use of gliders. In February, the Tennessee Tech president asked the EPA to withhold use of the study until a peer review was conducted.

Now, the Environmental Defense Fund has turned to the courts in hopes of requiring the EPA to enforce the cap on gliders.

“The glider decision is an unlawful attempt by EPA to circumvent the Clean Air Act’s requirements and institute a shadow regulatory regime under the guise of ‘enforcement discretion,’” the lawsuit stated. “A stay of the decision pending review is warranted because it is patently illegal.”

The EPA didn’t immediately respond to Land Line’s request for comments regarding the lawsuit.

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.