EPA science advisers will review tailpipe, glider rule rollbacks

Source: Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, May 22, 2018

EPA science advisers have decided to scrutinize the agency’s planned rollbacks of two Obama-era rules on greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.

The Science Advisory Board said in a May 18 memo that it would review the proposed repeal of emissions standards for light-duty vehicles as well as glider kits — new truck chassis equipped with refurbished diesel engines and powertrains.

Environmentalists and some board members have previously expressed concern that the panel would be sidelined to avoid interfering with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s deregulatory agenda (Climatewire, March 6).

But the board’s decision to review two high-profile rule rollbacks shows the panel still has teeth, said Paul Billings, senior vice president for advocacy at the American Lung Association.

“It is significant that this work group has flagged these rules and is asking really important questions about the underlying science,” Billings said. “If the board agrees to undertake a review, it will slow these rules down and hopefully provide a meaningful review of that science.”

EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are preparing a detailed proposal for revised fuel efficiency standards for cars. The agencies are expected to submit a proposal to the White House Office of Management and Budget as soon as this week.

The EPA science panel raised several questions about the science underpinning Pruitt’s decisions to revise the tailpipe and glider rules.

Pruitt last fall sidestepped his own staff’s analysis that showed gliders pollute 20 to 40 times more than modern trucks, and instead pointed to industry-backed research.

“With the glider rule, there’s really no evidence to support rolling back these standards,” Billings said. “The one study EPA cited has been withdrawn under an investigation for academic misconduct, and the data and evidence in the record that has not been withdrawn shows that these glider trucks are significantly dirtier under some operating conditions.”

The president of Tennessee Technological University, which did the glider study, has asked EPA to stop using the industry-funded research pending an internal investigation (Greenwire, Feb. 23).

The science advisers declined to review other regulatory actions, such as a proposal concerning state guidelines for greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants.

The board also opted to defer consideration of a proposal titled “Increasing Consistency, Reliability and Transparency in the Rulemaking Process” until more information is available.

An EPA spokeswoman redirected inquiries on the board to an agency statement: “EPA’s Science Advisory Board plays an important role in informing EPA actions on policy and regulatory matters. We value the Board’s expertise, and we welcome feedback from the chartered panel on areas in which they are interested in getting additional scientific information that is relevant to the rulemaking process.”

The board is scheduled to meet next week. The Clean Air Act Advisory Committee’s Mobile Sources Technical Review Subcommittee, which reviews issues affecting the transportation sector, will meet tomorrow.