Definitely not a 'glider' truck

Just before he DB Coopered from the EPA with a used Trump Hotel jizz mattress and a set of bulletproof seat covers strapped to his back, Scott Pruitt granted one last deregulatory wish for merchants of dirty air. On the way out the door, Pruitt signed off on an exemption from clean-air standards for manufacturers of so-called "glider" trucks, which pair brand-new truck bodies with old polluting engines for a cheaper alternative to new trucks. Oh, yes, and they're incredibly polluting. As niche markets go, these things are even filthier than Bigfoot Porn.

Now, here's the surprise: On Friday, Pruitt's replacement, EPA acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, actually reversed Pruitt's gift to the makers of such trucks. We aren't ready to proclaim him a crunchy granola environmental warrior hero on the basis of one good decision, but we figure members of the Trump crew deserve credit when they do good. That positive reinforcement might help remind them to do the real job of not cancering us on purpose.

In a memo to EPA air quality regulators, Wheeler formally undid Pruitt's promise to no longer enforce rules against their super-polluting vehicles, writing,

I have concluded that the application of current regulations to the glider industry does not represent the kind of extremely unusual circumstances that support the E.P.A.'s exercise of enforcement discretion.

Hmmm ... so wait, Trump's Justice Department insisted the law was the law when it came to immigration, so children had to be taken from their parents at the border ... but when it came to spewing pollutants from old filthy diesel engines, Pruitt figured there was plenty of wiggle room when it came to "enforcement discretion"? Huh. Still, good on Wheeler for deciding the agency couldn't stretch its "discretion" that far.

"Glider" truck kits, the filthwagons in question here, are brand new tractor truck bodies and frames that are sold without engines or transmissions -- like a glider, get it? -- into which the buyer can install a dirty older engine that doesn't come anywhere close to meeting the emissions standards for new vehicles. It's an end run around air quality regulations, so you can see why Pruitt would have loved it, and the things were also a good bit cheaper than a completely new truck -- attractive to some long-haul trucking companies, since the business is all about very tight financial margins.

Only one teensy problem: those old engines produce up to 55 times the pollution of modern engines with emissions controls. And while they make up only about 5 percent of the trucks on the road,

The Obama administration had estimated that, left unchecked, gliders could generate a third of the truck fleet's soot and other pollutants that contribute to smog and acid rain, and sought to limit their annual production to 300 vehicles through the end of 2019.

Phasing the things out was supported not only by environmentalist greenies but also by big shipping companies and major truck manufacturers like Volvo Group, because they resented doing the right and legal thing while some companies could get a competitive advantage by cheating on pollution. Pruitt, on the other hand, sided with a small group of lobbyists for the sootlorries.

Wheeler's decision to drop the loophole may have been helped along by a court decision earlier this month that blocked Pruitt's non-regulation from going into effect. The Sierra Club's chief climate counsel, Joanne Spalding, issued a statement saying that in abandoning the action, Wheeler had "conceded defeat."

So is this the end of the line for "glider" kits? Not quite, notes the New York Times, positive reinforcement notwithstanding:

"With Mr. Pruitt out, I'm glad to see EPA will reverse one of the most egregious — and likely illegal — environmental proposals of his tenure," Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement. He called the reversal "a step in the right direction" but he criticized a longer-term E.P.A. plan that aims to eventually exempt glider trucks from greenhouse gas regulations.

Well of course -- like the psycho trucker in Duel, these bastards are unrelenting, popping up again and again to torment poor everyman Dennis Weaver in his little red Valiant. Here's hoping the Trump anti-environmental agenda meets a similar end to that old Peterbilt 281 (spoiler warning): out of control, bent on destruction, and careening off a cliff.

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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