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USEPA Considers Allowing Dirty Trucks; CARB Fights Back

EPA wants to let old polluting diesel engines masquerade as new ones. Image: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, via Wikimedia Commons

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Streetsblog USA just reported that the federal government is considering gutting truck safety rules put in place under the Obama administration. Meanwhile another federal agency is considering repealing a truck regulation put in place two years ago that protects air quality and public health.

The US EPA is considering repealing a rule that prevents high-polluting, older truck engines from being repackaged and sold as “new trucks.” Specifically, the current rule limits the use of what are called “glider kits” that allow a truck to put a refurbished diesel engine into a new truck chassis and call it a new truck. The rule was developed as part of the federal Phase 2 greenhouse gas regulations.

The California Air Resources Board, which worked closely with the EPA for three years to put together the new regulations, put out a press release charging that many of the refurbished engines in the kits are older engines that don't meet current emissions standards, especially California's. “As a result, compared to current clean trucks, they emit massive amounts of smog-forming pollution and toxic carcinogenic soot, directly impacting public health,” according to the press release.

Steve Cliff, Deputy Executive Officer for CARB, testified at a public hearing in Washington this week against repealing the rule. His testimony points out that the emissions increase from the proposed repeal could be “enormous,” and that a repeal would be unfair to those truck manufacturers who have worked to comply with emissions requirements.

“Gliders are so much higher emitting than modern trucks that even if only a small number of them operate in California, California’s overall air quality progress will be impeded,” said Cliff.

“For example, if gliders made up only seven percent of the total medium and heavy duty trucks in California, that would completely offset the benefits of California’s in-use diesel fleet rules, including our Truck and Bus rule, putting California’s citizens at risk and making it impossible for California to meet health based air quality standards.”

“In short, a repeal puts our most disadvantaged communities at risk by walking away from the commitment to reduce their exposure to smog-forming and toxic pollutants that impact public health leading to hospitalizations, asthma cases, lost work and school days, and premature deaths.”

Cliff also argued that a repeal would be illegal.

EPA is basing its decision to repeal the requirements for gliders on a proposed reinterpretation of the federal Clean Air Act that ... is in direct conflict with the interpretation EPA itself used less than two years ago when drafting the final Phase 2 regulation. It is inconsistent with the fact that glider vehicles are being manufactured, marketed, and sold as “new” vehicles, and is inconsistent with the language and purpose of the statute.

Mary Nichols, CARB chair, sent out a tweet:

Many other organizations also testified at the hearing, among them the Environmental Defense Fund. The EPA will accept public comments through January 5.

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