EPA says it will not enforce glider truck cap through 2019

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a loophole that will allow glider kit manufacturers to avoid certain Obama-era emissions regulations and, effectively, build as many trucks as they deem fit, according to the New York Times.

EPA officials told the New York Times they will not enforce a rule that prevents manufacturers from building more than 300 glider trucks per year through the end of 2019, giving the EPA time to permanently repeal the cap.

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 and still legally exists. The agency has simply decided to forgo enforcement.

The announcement came Friday, during Scott Pruitt’s final hours as EPA administrator. Pruitt has always been vocal about his dislike for strict regulations, suing the agency over a dozen times while serving as attorney general of Oklahoma.

FreightWaves reported on Pruitt’s push to exempt all glider trucks from new emissions regulations in 2017.

“The EPA’s rationale is based on a new interpretation of the Clean Air Act—the EPA now finds that glider vehicles do not constitute ‘new motor vehicles’ and that glider kits should not be treated as ‘incomplete’ new motor vehicles,” the FreightWaves article reads. “Since the Clean Air Act gives the EPA the authority to regulate the emissions of new motor vehicles, this interpretation of the rule puts glider trucks outside of the EPA’s purview—the EPA is saying it does not have the authority to regulate these vehicles.”

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Pruitt cited a study conducted by Tennessee Technological University, stating that pollution from glider trucks is no worse than pollution from modern vehicles. The study was sponsored by Tennessee-based Fitzgerald Glider Kits, and its findings directly contradict the findings of an earlier EPA study.

“Days after Pruitt moved to exempt gliders from implementing modern emissions standards, staff at the EPA entered into the agency's official record-keeping docket a study that the agency had itself performed of emissions from a Fitzgerald Glider Kits truck that directly contradicted the results from Tennessee Tech, concluding that the air emissions were 43 to 55 times those of trucks with modern emissions controls,” according to an earlier FreightWaves article.

The Tennessee tech study was opposed by several health and environmental groups, as well as major manufacturers like Volvo and Navistar.

When the 300-truck cap went into effect in January, Fitzgerald was required to cut its production by 90 percent. This lead to multiple rounds of layoffs and a plant closure, according to a report from Upper Cumberland Business Journal.

“The Fitzgerald’s have made it their mission to provide for this region and other parts of the country,” Fitzgerald Director of Government Affairs Jon Toomey told UCBJ in June. “This is a prime example of how government regulations can severely impact communities. We are hopeful, however, in President (Donald) Trump’s agenda and his promise to save American jobs. (EPA) Administrator (Scott) Pruitt has done a great job in recognizing agency overreach and the cleanup at EPA has not been easy.”

It is unclear if the glider kit loophole announced Friday will lead to a production surge, and as a result a hiring spree, at Fitzgerald.