EPA reverses 'no action assurance,' will resume glider kit cap enforcement

  (Photo: Fitzgerald Glider Kits)

(Photo: Fitzgerald Glider Kits)

The Environmental Protection Agency reversed Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s July 6 decision to give glider kit manufacturers relief from a key limitation after fierce push back from environmentalists.

EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent a memo to his deputies late Thursday withdrawing Pruitt’s decision not to enforce an Obama-era regulation that prevents manufacturers from building more than 300 glider trucks each year.

The cap applies to glider trucks that do not meet the nitrogen oxide, particulate matter and CO2 emissions limits for the year during which the truck was assembled. It went into effect in January.

Wheeler’s decision came after three environmental groups and a coalition of states filed administrative requests for the EPA to withdraw or administratively stay Pruitt’s no action assurance.

FreightWaves previously reported the Environmental Defense Fund, the Center of Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club filed an emergency motion for stay in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on July 17. The court granted the request just one day later. The states’ filed a similar motion in the same court on July 19.

In its request for a stay, the environmental groups summed up their argument by saying the EPA action "encourages the production and sale of thousands of super-polluting, heavy-duty diesel freight trucks in violation of the agency’s own Clean Air Act regulations."

Glider trucks are often referred to as "super-polluting," and a past EPA study found air emissions from glider trucks were 43 to 55 times those of trucks with modern emissions controls.

Wheeler cited Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance guidelines in his decision to continue enforcing glider truck regulations.

“OECA has a general guidance limiting the circumstances under which the agency will consider issuing no action assurances,” Wheeler’s memo reads. “OECA guidance is clear that a no action assurance should be issued only in an ‘extremely unusual ‘ case when the no action assurance is necessary to serve the public interest and only when no other mechanism can adequately address that interest.”

When requesting the original no action assurance, the Office of Air and Radiation said enforcement should be halted until permanent action was taken on glider truck regulations because new rules resulted in job losses and threatened the viability of manufacturers.

One affected business, Tennessee-based Fitzgerald Glider Kits was required to cut its production by 90 percent when the cap went into effect. This led to multiple rounds of layoffs and a plant closure, according to a report from Upper Cumberland Business Journal.

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Fitzgerald sponsored a controversial and highly disputed Tennessee Technological University study that found pollution from glider trucks is no worse than pollution from modern vehicles. Pruitt cited the study when he first began pushing to exempt glider trucks from stricter emissions regulations late last year.

After consulting with OAR, OECA and the Office of General Counsel, Wheeler decided that the amount of disruption experienced in the industry did not warrant a no action assurance.

“I have concluded that the application of current regulations to the glider industry does not represent the kind of extremely unusual circumstances that support the EPA's exercise of enforcement discretion,” Wheeler said. “Furthermore, the EPA will not offer any other no action assurance to any party with respect to the currently applicable requirements for glider manufacturers and their suppliers.”

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