Newly-appointed acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Andrew Wheeler has wasted no time in rolling back emissions rules, green groups said Saturday, as outgoing agency chief Scott Pruitt undoubtedly worked with his replacement to give one last handout to corporate polluters in his last hours on the job on Friday.
Before leaving the agency amid at least 14 ethics investigations, and after spending a year undermining the EPA's core mission, Pruitt lifted a cap on the manufacturing of trucks that do not meet modern emissions standards, and moved to completely repeal the limits on such vehicles.
This reckless, illegal act—as Scott Pruitt exits EPA tonight—could not have been committed without the support of incoming EPA head, Andy Wheeler.
— John Walke (@jwalkenrdc) July 7, 2018
Thanks to requirements introduced in 2016, truck manufacturers had previously been limited to making only 300 "glider trucks," which are made by fitting modern truck bodies with older engines that do not meet emissions requirements.
The models are sought after by trucking companies looking to evade environmental protection rules because they are less expensive to run—and derided by health experts and green groups.
According to one EPA study, wrote the American Lung Association in a report called "Six Threats to the Nation's Air Quality," glider trucks "produced emissions up to 450 times higher than a comparable 2014 or 2015 model year truck."
"Pruitt and Wheeler are creating a loophole for super polluting freight trucks that will fill our children's lungs with toxic diesel pollution, ignoring public comments from moms and leading businesses across the country," Vickie Patton, general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, told the New York Times.
As Pruitt considered opening the loophole for glider truck manufacturers earlier this year, national health groups including the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of American and the American Lung Association signed a letter imploring the EPA chief to protect the public from the pollution-causing vehicles.
"These standards will not only help to mitigate climate change and its associated health risks, but will also significantly reduce emissions of toxic and carcinogenic air pollutants, benefiting public health in communities across the country," wrote the groups. "As public health groups and medical societies, we are keenly aware of the harmful health effects of these diesel combustion air pollutants, as well as the dangers that climate change already poses to human health. We call on you to protect our patients and the public from these health harms."
Just as the loophole was approved, Wheeler spoke with the Washington Post about his plans for the EPA, noting that he would "work to implement the president's agenda" as Pruitt has—further confirming Trump opponents' fears.
Unfortunately but not unexpectedly, the EPA is again in the hands of a lobbyist set on dismantling environmental regulations. Andrew Wheeler, coal lobbyist and Washington insider, may prove even more adept at enacting Trump's agenda than Pruitt. Our fight continues.
— Andy Kim (@AndyKimNJ) July 6, 2018