EPA to Revise Greenhouse Gas Rules for Refurbished Trucks

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt this week approved a petition from the glider industry to revise the agency’s Phase 2 Heavy Truck greenhouse gas emission standards rule (81 FR 73478, Oct. 25, 2016).

“Gliders” are medium- and heavy-duty trucks assembled by combining certain new components (tractor chassis, frame, front axle, cab, and brakes), known as a “glider kit,” with the refurbished powertrain (engine, transmission, and usually rear axle) of an older truck. Gliders are typically about 25 percent less expensive than a new vehicle, providing significant savings to small businesses and independently owned trucking companies.

The Obama EPA’s Phase 2 rule mandates that gliders meet the greenhouse gas standards applicable to new trucks and new truck engines. That would impose significant costs on small business truckers and “effectively shut down the glider industry and the nearly 20,000 jobs it supports across the nation,” petitioners warn.

Petitioners argue EPA should revise the Phase 2 greenhouse gas standards for gliders for three reasons.

First, Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act gives the EPA no authority regulate gliders. The provision provides authority to set emission standards for “new motor vehicles” and “new motor vehicle engines.” But the engines in gliders are refurbished older engines, not new engines. What’s more, glider kits are not even motor vehicles, because they are not “self-propelled” (42 U.S.C. § 7550(2)).

Second, the Obama EPA based its decision to regulate gliders on unsupported assumptions rather than data. For example, the EPA assumed all gliders would be built with higher-emission engines manufactured before 2002. “In fact, the model year of the engines used in glider vehicles varies depending on the donor vehicle or owner and includes engines from after 2002.”

Third, reconsideration of the Phase 2 rule is warranted under President Trump’s Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth (E.O. 13783, March 28, 2017). The rule is an outgrowth of President Obama’s Climate Change Action Plan. The executive order rescinded the Plan and instructs all executive agencies, “as appropriate and consistent with law,” to “suspend, revise, or rescind” any rules related to or arising from that document.

Three constituencies will likely challenge whatever Phase 2 revisions Pruitt proposes: environmental groups and the California Air Resources Board, who want greenhouse gas standards to be as stringent as possible, manufacturers of new trucks and engines, who compete with glider manufacturers for market share, and large corporate buyers of trucks, who compete with independent small business truckers.