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In 'Major Win' for Clean Air and Public Health, EPA Reverses Pruitt's 'Super-Polluting' Truck Loophole

The decision came after a federal appeals court sided with green groups that sought to block the "irresponsible and dangerous" policy

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The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday reversed a policy that would have allowed more "super-polluting" diesel freight trucks on American roadways. (Photo: raymondclarkeimages/Flickr/cc)

After a federal court sided with green groups that sought to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from granting a loophole to allow more "super-polluting" trucks on American roadways, acting administrator Andrew Wheeler—who took over following scandal-ridden Scott Pruitt's resignation—officially rescinded his predecessor's final giveaway to industry.

"These super-polluting diesel freight trucks fill our lungs with a toxic stew of pollution... This is a huge win for all Americans who care about clean air and human health."
—Fred Krupp, EDF
"These super-polluting diesel freight trucks fill our lungs with a toxic stew of pollution. EPA's effort to create a loophole allowing more of them onto our roads was irresponsible and dangerous," declared Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) president Fred Krupp. "This is a huge win for all Americans who care about clean air and human health."

Late Thursday, Wheeler released a memo announcing that the agency will, in fact, impose restrictions on what the industry calls glider trucks—which are old diesel engines dropped into new freight bodies and, according to the New York Times, "account for about five percent of all heavy-duty trucks on the road."

Wheeler wrote that after considering "administrative and judicial petitions and motions," and consulting with various offices, "I have concluded that the application of current regulations to the glider industry does not represent the kind of extreme unusual circumstances that support the EPA's exercise of enforcement discretion."

"Today's announcement is a step in the right direction, but the proposed rule to indefinitely exempt some of the dirtiest trucks on the roads that emit 55 times the air pollution of new trucks, is still on the table."
—Sen. Tom Carper
The move follows the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issuing (pdf) an administrative stay last week after EDF, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club filed an emergency motion (pdf) requesting that the court block Pruitt's last act as head of the agency.

Although environmentalist have raised alarm over Wheeler's takeover of the agency—he used to be coal lobbyistand a longtime aide to one of Congress's most notable climate change deniers—activists and politicians who criticized the policy cautiously welcomed this decision.

Several celebrated the reversal on Twitter:

Meanwhile, Sierra Club chief climate counsel Joanne Spalding, concluded, "the wheels have come off Wheeler's tenure as he conceded defeat."

"Andrew Wheeler is losing even faster than disgraced former administrator Scott Pruitt."
—Joanne Spalding, Sierra Club

"Andrew Wheeler is losing even faster than disgraced former administrator Scott Pruitt," Spalding continued. "Wheeler must come to the realization that he can't just change the rules for the corporate polluters he represented for so long, at the expense of public health."

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement: "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. His senseless proposal ignored the science put out by his own EPA and created a Clean Air Act loophole for an industry friend, all while putting the health of Americans and our environment at risk."

"Today's announcement is a step in the right direction, but the proposed rule to indefinitely exempt some of the dirtiest trucks on the roads that emit 55 times the air pollution of new trucks, is still on the table," Carper added, promising that he will "keep pushing to see that this misguided proposal is one that never gets finalized."

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