EPA formally proposes repeal of Obama-era glider kit emissions regulations

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Updated Jul 30, 2018
(Photo courtesy of Fitzgerald Glider Kits.)(Photo courtesy of Fitzgerald Glider Kits.)

The Environmental Protection Agency will soon publish a rulemaking intended to exempt glider kit trucks from the sweeping Phase 2 emissions standards enacted by the Obama Administration in 2016, bringing relief to a segment of vehicle makers that said the emissions standards would “decimate” their business.

The EPA released the text of its proposed rule Thursday, the same day the White House’s Office of Management and Budget cleared the proposal by the Trump-era EPA to undo a rule enacted — and lauded — by its predecessor.

Instead of simply exempting glider kit vehicles from the Phase 2 tractor-trailer emissions regs, the EPA is instead reclassifying glider kit trucks so that they “would not be treated as new motor vehicles” and that their engines, often times older engines built before 2007 and 2010 emissions standards took effect, “would not be treated as new motor vehicle engines.” Such a reinterpretation would mean the EPA then lacks authority to regulate “glider vehicles, glider engines and glider kits,” the rulemaking states.

Further, given the altered interpretation of glider kit trucks, the agency proposes to repeal provisions within the Phase 2 rule that apply to glider vehicles, glider engines and glider kits.

The agency will accept public comments on the proposal until January 5. The rulemaking must be published in the Federal Register before the public comment period can begin, likely to occur in the coming days. EPA also said it will hold a public hearing at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 4 to hear public comments about the proposal. Written comments can be made at the regulations.gov rulemaking portal via Docket No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2014-0827,

While the EPA last year said that the roughly 10,000 glider kits sold each year in the U.S. emit the same amount of NOx and greenhouse gases as 200,000 new Class 8 tractors, new research presented by the EPA in its rulemaking bucks that conclusion.

Citing a recent study performed by Tennessee Tech University, emissions by Class 8 glider vehicles, despite being powered by older remanufactured engines and transmissions, do not produce greater levels of emissions than new trucks with new engines. “In some instances, [gliders] even out-performed the OEM engines” relative to emissions of NOx, PM and carbon monoxide, EPA says in the rulemaking. Recycling older engines also prevents the emissions produced during the process of casting new engines, a source of “significant NOx emissions,” according to EPA.

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Scott Pruitt, EPA head, said in August he intended to reevaluate certain components of the Phase 2 rule, including the glider kit-focused stipulations and the trailer-specific portions. The EPA has not signaled intent yet to rollback portions of the Phase 2 rule related to trailers, but it has moved swiftly to protect glider kits from the Phase 2 stipulations. A court, however, has temporarily shelved the trailer-specific portions of the Phase 2 rule, pending an ongoing lawsuit against the standards.

“Gliders not only provide a more affordable option for smaller owners and operators, but also serve as a key economic driver to numerous rural communities,” said Pruitt on Thursday.

The Phase 2 standards did offer a limited exemption for glider kit makers or individuals who build less than 300 kits a year. However, manufacturers like Fitzgerald Glider Kits and others can build several thousand kits a year, meaning they would have had to drastically alter their operations on a short time frame to comply with the standards.

Fitzgerald’s spearheaded a petition to the EPA earlier this year asking it to reevaluate the Obama-era regulations. Action of late by the EPA signals a major victory for glider kit makers.