Ex-EPA heads urge Pruitt to scrap changes to truck pollution rule
Two former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chiefs are urging current Administrator Scott Pruitt to withdraw a proposal to lower pollution standards for heavy-duty trucks after reports the agency may have relied on a compromised study to reach its decision.
The joint letter sent Friday by former administrators Carol Browner and Christine Whitman, who served under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively, asked Pruitt to utilize “sound science” and consider the best available research when making policy decisions regarding pollution standards for glider trucks.
“Throughout our tenures as Administrators, our policy decisions were centered on the best available research and scientific protocols. We are deeply troubled that the Agency’s steadfast commitment to public health and environmental protection based on the best available science is being undermined – putting at risk air and water quality and endangering children and families,” the letter reads.
Their letter followed reports in late February that a key study the EPA was relying on for its determination to change the rule was being rescinded by the university in charge of it.
The president of Tennessee Tech University disavowed the “Environmental and Economic study of Glider Kit Assemblers” report, writing in a letter to Pruitt directly that experts were now questioning “the methodology and accuracy” of the test, and that EPA should no longer consider the findings.
The school’s president, Philip Oldham, also said they were researching allegations of research misconduct.
The former EPA heads wrote Pruitt that in light of the news, he should withdraw his proposal to change the emissions guidelines.
“Not only does it appear that the Tennessee Tech study failed to follow proper research protocol, the conclusions of the study are contrary to a well-established understanding of the pollution from older diesel engines,” reads the letter. “In light of the serious questions raised about the study, we urge you withdraw the glider proposal.”
The Washington Post first reported in November that the study was funded by Fitzgerald Glider Kits, a company that makes new truck bodies, known as gliders, with refurbished engines, and which is the biggest glider manufacturer in the country.
Currently, the big rigs sold by Fitzgerald utilize a federal law loophole that allows them to run on rebuilt diesel engines that generate 40 to 55 times the air pollution of newer trucks, according to federal estimates, but do not have to comply with modern emissions rules.
Earlier in February, The New York Times reported close ties between Fitzgerald and the Trump administration that have supported keeping the loophole open. President Trump made a stop at Fitzgerald’s dealership during his campaign and Rep. Diane Black, a Republican candidate for Tennessee governor, has introduced legislation in the past to attempt to keep the loophole permanent.
While her legislation failed, the Times reported that Black initially presented the Tennessee Tech study to Pruitt last fall, which led him to make the exemption to the gliders in November.
Just six weeks earlier, Fitzgerald business entities as well as family members and associates connected to the company contributed at least $225,000 to Black’s campaign for governor, the Times found through federal campaign disclosures.