EPA Should Keep Super Dirty Diesels Off the Road

By Ann Mesnikoff

Most everyone would agree that letting super dirty diesel trucks with old engines inside new truck bodies belch out dramatic amounts of pollution that causes smog is a bad idea – that’s everyone except for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headed up by Administrator Scott Pruitt. The EPA proposed to repeal standards for these trucks last year. But, there’s been a new development in this dirty tale.

The New York Times recently ran a compelling story on “How $225,000 can help secure a pollution loophole at Trump’s EPA.” The loophole in question is one that would allow an unlimited number of super polluting diesel “glider” trucks on our highways and in our cities. These “gliders” are new truck bodies with dirty old engines inside. The story covered how the leading glider maker, Fitzgerald, had paid for a Tennessee Technological Institute study that would show gliders really aren’t all that dirty. Fitzgerald then used that study to push EPA to withdraw its standards. Shortly after the story ran, Tennessee Tech withdrew that flawed study.

The question now is: what will EPA do now that a key rationale for repealing standards has been exposed and withdrawn?
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Back in 2016, the EPA (under President Obama) estimated that setting standards for dirty glider trucks would prevent up to 1,600 premature deaths over the lifetime of the trucks sold in 2017 alone (1). The Trump EPA is now in the process of repealing those standards for these super polluters. The New York Times story makes clear that “the survival of this loophole is a story of money, politics and suspected academic misconduct, according to interviews and government and private documents, and has been facilitated by Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who has staked out positions in environmental fights that benefit the Trump administration’s corporate backers.”

ELPC submitted comments to EPA back in December opposing the repeal of essential air pollution standards for gliders. Here are a few key points from our comments (our full comments can be found here).

Midwestern states experience some of the most intense freight truck traffic in the country. We are ground zero for much of the nation’s manufacturing and agricultural activities, and that means millions of truck miles on our highways and in our densely populated urban areas. Regionally, the Midwest leads in terms of freight traffic too—according to the US Census, 28% of all truck traffic in the US flows through the Midwest (2).

We pointed out that because of all this truck traffic Midwesterners are likely to be disproportionately affected by excess emissions from dirty diesel gliders. Across the Midwest, cities are struggling with air quality; high asthma rates and other health consequences remain a persistent concern. In fact, several Midwest cities — Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati– are cities where air quality does not meet the 2015 ozone health standard. These cities can’t afford to have an unlimited number of super polluting trucks running through them. And, these trucks don’t emit just a little more pollution – EPA’s own tests show they emit 43 times higher NOx emissions and 55 times higher PM emissions than comparable model year 2014 and 2015 vehicles (3).

We concluded our comments by noting clean air is essential to life and health.

The New York Times told a story about how easy it was for one company to buy itself out of an essential air quality safeguard and threaten the health of Midwesterners and all Americans. EPA should stop its repeal of this rule and leave the common sense public health safeguards alone.

 

[1] Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles – Phase 2 Response to Comments for Joint Rulemakinghttps://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPDF.cgi/P100P8IS.PDF?Dockey=P100P8IS.PDF  p. 1965

[2] https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=CFS_2012_00A02&prodType=table

[3] HD Chassis Glider Final Report 11202017  https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OAR-2014-0827-2417 p. 3.

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