EPA loophole for ‘glider’ trucks OK’d on Pruitt’s last day

On his last day before resigning amid ethics scandals U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt granted a loophole to allow dealers to sell new trucks with old engines built into them that can pollute at as much as 55 times the levels those covered by modern emission controls, the New York Times reports .

The loophole has been promoted by Fitzgerald Glider Kits, a Crossville company that has given heavily to Republican U.S. Rep. Diane Black’s gubernatorial campaign. Black has traveled on the company’s private plane to attend campaign events.

The Fitzgeralds sell trucks known as “gliders” because they are built without engines. They are later
retrofitted with rebuilt diesel engines exempted from emissions rules through the EPA loophole. That makes them cheaper to operate.

A Tennessee Tech study minimizing the environmental impact of trucks was provided to Pruitt by Black’s office. The Times has reported that the study was funded by Fitzgerald — an issue that has roiled the faculty at the school — and that it has also offered to build a research center for the university on land owned by the company. Black’s campaign has stressed that she was supporting rural manufacturing jobs and that she “does her best to help all constituents that walk through her door.”

State Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini earlier this year denounced what she called “pay to play behavior” by the congresswoman. A spokeswoman for Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd’s campaign said in February that it was surprised to hear of “Black’s efforts to circumvent federal regulatory efforts on Fitzgerald Glider’s behalf.” But Boyd in his past role as economic development commissioner had kind things to say about Fitzgerald Glider Kits, declaring at a 2016 conference that “it’s companies like this that we want to set as an example for communities all across our state.”

The loophole is opposed by public health and environmental groups, along with companies like UPS and Volvo Group. The EPA confirmed to the Times that the agency will not enforce an annual cap of 300 gilders per manufacturer that had been imposed in January.

Fitzgerald made about 3,000 gilder trucks last year. The company did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment, but  Tommy Fitzgerald Sr., its chief executive, in an April opinion piece praised Mr. Pruitt and blamed industry competitors, like Volvo, for pushing the restrictions.

“The new truck industry conspired with the Obama EPA to try to put us out of business,” Mr. Fitzgerald wrote, adding, “Our goose was cooked until President Trump and Pruitt came to town.”

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