EPA gives reprieve to big rigs

Source: Camille von Kaenel, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, August 21, 2017

U.S. EPA announced yesterday it will change part of its greenhouse gas standards for big rigs, despite support for the rules from large manufacturers.

EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s measures require up to a 25 percent reduction in carbon emissions for tractor-trailers over the next 10 years, and smaller reductions for delivery trucks, school buses and other large vehicles.

The rules are projected to avoid 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2027 and were seen as a key part of President Obama’s climate change legacy.

But special sectors of the industry launched petitions and lawsuits to roll back parts of the regulation (Climatewire, Aug. 3).

Manufacturers of truck trailers and glider kits, which are new truck frames combined with refurbished engines, say the EPA rules would damage their business. They have argued the Clean Air Act does not apply to glider kits or trailers because they are not vehicles.

“In light of the significant issues raised, the agency has decided to revisit the Phase 2 trailer and glider provisions,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement. “We intend to initiate a rulemaking process that incorporates the latest technical data and is wholly consistent with our authority under the Clean Air Act.”

A rare climate rule supported by industry

EPA had a deadline yesterday to respond to a lawsuit brought by the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit seeking to stop the provision. It is expected to delay the 2018 start date for trailers and glider kits as it goes through a new rulemaking.

EPA’s move came despite support for the rule from big manufacturers, which cheered the targets when they came out and feared unpredictability if EPA were to take a second look.

In anticipation, they have sat down with administration officials and lawmakers in recent months to outline the benefits of higher fuel efficiency and regulatory stability. They say that they have already planned products to meet the new standards, set to begin in 2021.

EPA’s changes concern only parts of the rule, so their opposition may be limited.

Pat Quinn, executive director of the Heavy Duty Fuel Efficiency Leadership Group, which includes Cummins Inc., Eaton Corp., FedEx Corp., PepsiCo Inc., Wabash National Corp. and Waste Management Inc., said his group would oppose any move by EPA to change the rule “in its entirety.”

Smaller manufacturers of glider kits — the frames that combine old and new truck parts — say the new regulation, which would cap production at 300 a year, “would effectively destroy the glider industry.”

Because they have not had to comply with modern-day emissions standards, glider kits are 25 percent cheaper than a new truck. That has made them increasingly popular over the past 15 years, going from a few hundred on the road to 10,000. Regulators estimated they would represent around one-third of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emissions from the truck fleet by 2025.

Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) helped glider kit manufacturers like Fitzgerald Glider Kits LLC petition EPA for relief and thanked Pruitt for his announcement yesterday.

Calif. looming

Pruitt is likely to face some opposition for the piecemeal changes from environmental advocates and from California.

Dave Cooke, senior vehicles analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, called the glider and trailer requests “loopholes.”

In January, eight states led by California and environmental groups moved to defend the truck rules in the D.C. Circuit (E&E News PM, Jan. 24).

California’s Air Resources Board had planned to formally adopt its version of the federal truck standards this fall, with a few tweaks seeking extra emissions (Climatewire, Feb. 7). Dave Clegern, an agency spokesman, said yesterday that would continue. That raises the possibility that federal and state regulations could be at odds.