Tennessee Tech disavows study used in lobbying, financed by trucking company

The president of Tennessee Tech University has disavowed a study used to help justify the repeal of tighter federal emissions standards for a type of freight trucks, reports the Washington Post. He says that experts now question “the methodology and accuracy” of the industry-funded test.

Fitzgerald Glider Kits — which makes new truck bodies, called gliders, that house refurbished engines — had included a letter signed by Tennessee Tech’s president Philip B. Oldham and the head of the school’s Center for Intelligent Mobility, as part of its petition calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw a 2016 rule requiring that gliders comply with the same pollution limits as new heavy-duty trucks. The Washington Post first reported in November that the study was sponsored by Fitzgerald, the nation’s biggest glider manufacturer, and conducted at a Fitzgerald facility. The company’s connection to the university also extended to that research center, which soon will be housed in a new facility built by Fitzgerald.

In a letter Monday to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), who initially received the study results, Oldham wrote that “knowledgeable experts within the University have questioned the methodology and accuracy of the report” on the trucks’ performance. The school “is investigating an allegation of research misconduct related to the study,” he added.

“We request that you withhold any use or reference to said study pending the conclusion of our internal investigations,” he wrote. The request was first reported Wednesday evening by the New York Times.

Previous EPA modeling, which assumed that most gliders use pre-2002 engines, found that they emit anywhere from 20 to 40 times as much nitrogen oxides and soot as trucks with new engines. But the petition filed by Fitzgerald, Harrison Truck Centers and Indiana Phoenix cited the Tennessee Tech testing that concluded gliders “performed equally as well and in some instances outperformed” vehicles with newer engines.

…In recent weeks, many Tennessee Tech students, faculty members and officials have questioned how the initial study was conducted. The interim dean of its College of Engineering, Darrell Hoy, sent a letter to other faculty members saying that “no qualified, credentialed engineering faculty member” oversaw the testing, verified the data or reviewed the report that was sent to Fitzgerald.

Note: Black received $225,000 in contributions to her gubernatorial campaign that were tied to Fitzgerald and its officials (Previous posts HERE and HERE).

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