California’s top air agency strongly condemns EPA’s move to allow high-polluting, older trucks on roads

SACRAMENTO December 4, 2017 – Decades of clean air progress stand to be reversed if the US EPA opts to repeal its rule on limiting production of “glider kits,” said Steve Cliff, Deputy Executive Officer of the California Air Resources Board, testifying at a public hearing today at EPA headquarters in Washington D.C.

A ‘glider kit’ is a new truck chassis and cab that includes a refurbished diesel engine and power train. In almost every case, these kits include much older so-called ‘pre-emission’ engines from 10, 15 and up to twenty years ago. These engines evade current diesel-powered truck tailpipe standards. As a result, compared to current clean trucks, they emit massive amounts of smog-forming pollution and toxic carcinogenic soot, directly impacting public health.

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“If you enjoy driving behind a truck belching clouds of black carcinogenic smoke, you can thank EPA for putting many more of them on the roads, rather than cleaner modern models,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “This illegal effort by EPA will open the floodgates to allow unlimited numbers of old and dirty trucks to pour onto our streets and highways masquerading as brand new clean trucks.”

Full testimony

Good morning. I am Steve Cliff, Deputy Executive Officer of the California Air Resources Board (or CARB). I am here today to testify that California strongly opposes EPA’s proposed repeal of emission requirements for glider vehicles, requirements that were developed during three years of close coordination between CARB and EPA during the development of the federal Phase 2 greenhouse gas regulations. California’s position on the proposed repeal is also shared by the state of Pennsylvania.

The main points I want to cover today are EPA’s unreasonable and impermissible reading of the federal Clean Air Act to preclude it from regulating Gliders, the enormous emissions increase the proposed repeal could cause, and how a repeal would be unfair to heavy-duty manufacturers who have been complying with emissions requirements.

So, with that said, it is CARB’s position that a repeal of the glider provisions would, frankly, be illegal; EPA is basing its decision to repeal the requirements for gliders on a proposed reinterpretation of the federal Clean Air Act that would exclude glider vehicles from the definition of “new motor vehicle,” glider engines from the definition of “new motor vehicle engine,” and glider kits from the definition of “incomplete new motor vehicles.” The proposed reinterpretation is in direct conflict with the interpretation EPA itself used less than two years ago when drafting the final Phase 2 regulation. It is inconsistent with the fact that glider vehicles are being manufactured, marketed, and sold as “new” vehicles, and is inconsistent with the language and purpose of the statute. CARB will be submitting additional formal comments on EPA’s legally incorrect reading of the Clean Air Act.

The proposed glider repeal would have a profoundly harmful impact on public health, and would put at risk states’ efforts to meet federal ambient air quality standards and State Implementation Plan commitments. The repeal would effectively place thousands of outdated heavy-duty engines that do not meet the modern emission standards that have been in effect during the last decade on our highways. In short, a repeal puts our most disadvantaged communities at risk by walking away from the commitment to reduce their exposure to smog forming and toxic pollutants that impact public health leading to hospitalizations, asthma cases, lost work and school days, and premature deaths.

Modern trucks meeting current emission standards come with diesel particulate filters to capture toxic diesel particulate matter and selective catalytic reduction systems to drastically reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions. As we all know, reducing diesel PM is important to cut cancer and other health risks, and reducing NOx is important, as NOx is a key precursor to ground-level ozone or “smog”.

Glider builders have been circumventing the requirements for these important emission controls by using pre-2007 remanufactured engines, misusing a loophole in the provisions to sell thousands of dirty trucks each year with completely uncontrolled emissions.

Glider vehicles are significantly higher-emitting than modern vehicles meeting today’s standards. Based on EPA’s own testing this year[1], glider vehicle NOx levels were 4 to 40 times higher, and PM levels were 50 to 450 times—again that is 450 times—higher than emissions from modern vehicles. CARB staff has recently tested glider vehicles found on California highways and found high emission rates consistent with EPA’s 2017 testing. As our written comments will describe further, the Tennessee Tech emissions data mentioned in the glider repeal that purportedly showed gliders nearly as clean as modern vehicles is invalid and lacks scientific credibility for a number of reasons. For example, Tennessee Tech claimed gliders meet current PM standards without even measuring PM emissions and used unrepresentative conditions that effectively disabled the NOx controls on modern vehicles.

We know gliders are present in California, as over 500 of them are registered in California already. Gliders are so much higher emitting than modern trucks that even if only a small number of them operate in California, California’s overall air quality progress will be impeded. For example, if gliders made up only 7% of the total medium and heavy duty trucks in California, that would completely offset the benefits of California’s in-use diesel fleet rules, including our Truck and Bus rule, putting California’s citizens at risk and making it impossible for California to meet health based air quality standards.

Finally, the proposed repeal would legitimize the actions of the glider industry, which, as I’ve already mentioned, has been blatantly circumventing emission control requirements and undermining the vast majority of businesses that play by the rules and clean up their trucks. It has been a major undertaking on the part of US manufacturers to integrate complex emission controls into their heavy-duty diesel engines. They have done so successfully over the last decade, making today’s diesel trucks the cleanest ever, but this has come at a high price, literally. To comply with current emission standards, heavy-duty engine manufacturers have made significant financial investments and have structured their future product plans taking these investments and emission control commitments into account. As you’ll likely hear from others today, if EPA continues to shirk its duty to protect the public’s health and welfare and our nation’s air quality, by manufacturing a loophole that exempts glider vehicles from new vehicle requirements, and by inappropriately defining glider vehicles as not new vehicles and allowing unbridled glider production, it would put engine manufacturers that have invested significant resources to comply with current emission standards at a competitive disadvantage and perhaps even force them to initiate dirty glider vehicle production as well.

For all these reasons, CARB encourages EPA to listen to the public health advocates, air quality agency representatives, and manufacturers here today speaking in opposition to the glider repeal. CARB urges you to bear in mind your duty to protect air quality and the health of Americans, and to reconsider this ill-advised and illegal glider repeal. CARB will be submitting additional, more detailed comments in the next few weeks.


[1] Chassis Dynamometer Testing of Two Recent Model Year Heavy-Duty On-Highway Diesel Glider Vehicles, November 20, 2017, Docket No.: EPA-HQ-OAR-2014-0827-2417