The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on Wednesday granted a stay of the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to stop enforcing production caps on “super-polluting” diesel glider trucks after the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Defense Fund and Sierra Club filed an emergency motion.
The order freezes former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s last-day-on-the job decision to allow companies to ignore the cap, a decision left in place by acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, despite requests to rescind it.
“The DC Circuit’s swift action highlights the extreme nature of this lawless attempt to put more ultra-dirty trucks on our roads,” said Vera Pardee, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute.
“Andrew Wheeler didn’t block Pruitt’s putrid final shot at harming the American public, but the court did.”
A “glider” is a diesel freight truck assembled by installing a used engine and powertrain in a new truck body. Because their engines were built under outdated pollution standards, the EPA estimates glider trucks emit 20 to 40 times more smog-forming nitrogen oxide and soot-causing particulate matter than new trucks on the market.
The current law limits glider manufacturers to producing no more than 300 glider vehicles per year, but the companies are free to produce unlimited glider trucks as long as they use engines meeting current emission standards.
In two terse July 6 memos not released until days later, the agency announced that glider manufacturers and their suppliers can ignore the law and build thousands more glider trucks through 2019, confident that the EPA will not hold them accountable. Pruitt’s decision was made without prior notice or public comment period.
“Andrew Wheeler’s tenure as EPA chief is picking up where Scott Pruitt’s left off.,” said Joanne Spalding, Sierra Club’s chief climate counsel. “Wheeler and Pruitt flagrantly disregarded the established laws and rulemaking processes when EPA promised the manufacturers of these super polluting trucks that it would not enforce its standards to limit air pollution.
“The court is putting on the brakes while it considers whether this promise violates the law.”
Using the EPA’s own conservative estimates, every year of uncapped glider production could cause up to 1,600 premature deaths from fine-particulate-matter emissions alone.
The DC Circuit’s decision means glider-truck manufacturers must again comply with the production limits until the court makes a final decision. The court also ordered expedited briefing to conclude on July 27.
“Wheeler now owns this disastrous decision, and he’s proving no more concerned with the law or clean air than his predecessor,” Pardee said. “We’re confident the court will seal this vast new loophole for good and take away one more gift to dangerous polluters.”