EPA announces investigation into Tennessee Tech study on glider emissions.

December 13, 2018

Mark Schremmer

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The Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General plans to investigate the agency’s use of a Tennessee Tech University study regarding glider vehicle emissions.

EPA announced the investigation on Dec. 3. In October, four Democratic lawmakers – Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Texas; Don Beyer Jr., Virginia; Suzanne Bonamici, Oregon; and Jerry McNerney, California, sent a letter to the EPA asking for an investigation.

Tennessee Tech denounced portions of the study in October, saying that certain conclusions “were not accurate.”

The original study, which concluded in 2017 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. Soon after, Tennessee Tech University President Philip B. Oldham asked the EPA to withhold any use or reference of the study until a peer review was conducted.

In November 2017, the EPA issued a proposed rule to repeal emission requirements for gliders. The EPA said the proposal was based on an interpretation of the Clean Air Act under which “glider kits would not be treated as incomplete new motor vehicles.” Under the proposed interpretation, EPA would lack the authority to regulate glider emissions.

The proposed rule did cite the Tennessee Tech study, and it 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.

The proposal received significant opposition from environmental groups and was never elevated to a final rule after the comment period ended in January. Earlier this year, the EPA moved the glider rule to its long-term actions list.

However, EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler told Land Line Now in November that the agency is working on a way to keep glider vehicles as an option for small-business truckers.

“Gliders make up a small but important part of the trucking industry, and we’re continuing to work to address the gliders on a separate regulatory path,” he said. “Our team is developing a legally sound approach to appropriately regulate gliders by working with the industry to improve the emissions profile of their operations and not by putting them out of business, as is the case with the existing cap.”

The investigation into the Tennessee Tech study will be EPA’s second investigation regarding glider emissions in recent months.

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. Lawmakers sent letters to the Office of Inspector General, alleging that employees of the EPA and Volvo representatives worked together to conduct an emissions test on glider vehicles assembled by Fitzgerald Glider Kits. Volvo allegedly purchased the gliders for the EPA to perform the tests without reaching out to Fitzgerald.

The findings of the investigation have not been announced.

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, staff writer, 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 nearly two decades of journalism experience to our staff.

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