EPA Reverses Pruitt’s Last Act on Glider Trucks After States and Green Groups Sue
Following legal pressure from environmental groups and a number of states, acting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Andrew Wheeler issued a memo Thursday reversing Scott Pruitt's last act suspending limits on the manufacture and sale of super-polluting glider trucks.
A federal appeals court issued a temporary stay of the suspension July 18, following a suit brought by the Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity. One day later, 16 states and the District of Columbia also filed suits against the glider truck rule suspension, Reuters reported.
"The utter lawlessness of Scott Pruitt's gambit to foul our air with thousands of extra ultra-dirty trucks was obvious to all," senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute Vera Pardee said in an email. "Unfortunately, Andrew Wheeler didn't stop Pruitt's last-gasp mayhem until the court stayed his hand. And he still has not withdrawn Pruitt's 2017 proposal to eliminate all pollution limits for these zombie trucks. Until he does, he and his predecessor are birds of a feather."
The Obama administration had limited the sale of glider trucks—new truck bodies using older engines that can pollute up to 55 times as much as newer ones—to 300 per manufacturer per year.
On July 6, Pruitt wrote a memo issuing a "No Action Assurance" regarding the enforcement of that rule until July 6, 2019 or until the agency handed down a final rule on glider trucks that was more lenient than the Obama administration decision.
Wheeler initially refused requests by green groups to reverse Pruitt's reversal, but seems to have come around on legal grounds.
"[EPA Office of and Compliance Assurance] 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," Wheeler wrote in Thursday's memo.
He further wrote that, after consulting with EPA agencies and looking over precedent, "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."
However, that doesn't mean the EPA has given up on making life easier for glider truck manufacturers. Thursday's memo concluded with a promise to speed the process for creating a new rule.
Opponents of any reversal to glider truck limits cite concerns over the health impacts of the trucks' elevated air pollution levels.One of the state officials who had joined the suit against the "No Action" rule, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, told Reuters that the EPA had previously calculated that adding 10,000 glider trucks "with non-compliant engines onto our roads in a single year could result in up to 1,600 premature deaths."