Report: In trying to repeal glider truck limits, EPA skipped required steps in rule process

The Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog panel says the agency skirted required steps in the process of crafting a rule to repeal regulations that capped production of glider kit trucks. The finding delivers another blow to an early Trump-era push to roll back those regs, though it has no immediate impact on current glider kit production.

The glider kit limits have remained in place since taking effect in 2018, with EPA having tabled the repeal well before the investigation by its Office of Inspector General began. OIG released the results of its findings Thursday, Dec. 5.

EPA’s OIG did not question the rule’s contents — that is, its intentions to repeal the regulations. Rather, it simply concluded that EPA did not produce analyses on cost-benefit and health impacts, which are required by federal law when an agency undertakes such a rulemaking.

It’s unclear whether EPA will proceed with the rule. It has been tabled since mid-2018.

The glider kit regs were included in the Phase II truck and trailer emissions rule enacted in 2016 by the Obama-era EPA. Under the Phase II rule, glider vehicle manufacturers are limited to building 300 trucks a year that don’t meet Phase II standards for emissions of greenhouse gases, nitrous oxide and particulate matter.

Fitzgerald Glider Kits, the country’s largest glider kit builder prior to the implementation of those regulations, had been manufacturing 5,000 to 10,000 kits a year.

Starting in 2021, all glider kits must meet the emissions standards stipulated by the Phase II rule. That means glider kits would likely need to be outfitted with a 2010 or newer engine.

Fitzgerald and others pressed the EPA in 2017 to reconsider the glider kit regulations, arguing they would effectively end the glider truck business. Fitzgerald representatives met with then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who initiated the repeal rule shortly thereafter. The agency then published a proposed rule in November 2017 intending to unwind the glider limits.

However, the proposed rule was met with a wave of pushback. The study used to justify the repeal was called into question, and the school that produced the study, Tennessee Tech University, announced in  October 2018 that the study was flawed and that EPA should disregard its conclusions.

EPA had already tabled its rulemaking by the time the university made that announcement.

A separate, competing study produced by EPA in 2017 had also come under scrutiny. But EPA’s OIG in August of this year released a report stating that study was sound, and that its conclusions were valid. That study was produced in response to the push to repeal glider kit regulations and was not used to develop the initial 2016 regulations, which were originally proposed in July 2015.