By Michael Bastasch
An attorney and junk science blogger uncovered emails suggesting lobbyists and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials coordinated on an effort to preserve regulations on used truck engine manufacturers.
“The purpose, of course, was to embarrass and intimidate the Trump EPA into aborting the rollback of the Obama EPA rule,” JunkScience.com publisher Steve Milloy told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, Milloy obtained emails between two lobbyists at Volvo Group North America, and high-ranking officials in Ann Arbor, Mich., where EPA’s vehicle emissions testing lab is located.
“The emails show that Volvo lobbyists were working to supplying EPA staff with glider trucks so that rogue EPA staff could dishonestly ‘test’ glider emissions and issue a damning report that could be waved about at a public hearing on the proposed rule rollback,” Milloy said.
Volvo opposes repealing regulations on glider kits — new truck bodies that use refurbished engines and are substantially cheaper to buy than trucks with new engines. Volvo and other truck engine makers joined environmentalists in lobbying the Obama administration to regulate glider kits in 2016.
The Trump administration EPA is working towards repealing the glider kit rule, but bureaucratic delays have slowed the repeal process. Milloy said the emails he uncovered show career EPA officials colluded with business interests to thwart the repeal effort.
“Based on my research, I believe that the reason Volvo trucks and the rest of the new truck industry fears gliders is that honest and real world tests of gliders versus new trucks would show that gliders perform comparably well if not better than new trucks in terms of emissions,” Milloy said.
“This would expose the new truck industry as an illegal cartel pushing evermore stringent emissions regulations so they can force customers to buy evermore expensive engines,” Milloy said. (RELATED: Is This AP Story Evidence That Global Warming ‘Is Making Us Dumb?’)
The emails concern a study put out by EPA officials in late 2017, showing that glider kits emitted much more pollution than new engines. However, the study bore no official EPA markings, was never peer-reviewed and was done without the knowledge of senior staff in D.C.
EPA never released the study, but somehow Volvo lobbyist Susan Alt obtained a copy of the research findings, which she touted during a December 2017 public hearing on EPA’s proposal to repeal regulations on glider kits.
Volvo and other opponents of repealing regulations that limit glider kit manufacturing also held up the study as evidence repealing the glider rule would increase pollution, endangering public health.
However, emails show that Steve Berry, director of regulatory affairs at Volvo Group North America, coordinated with EPA official Angela Cullen on obtaining glider engines for the mysterious agency study glider kit opponents have held up to push back against repealing regulations.
EPA tested two glider engines for its 2017 study — both of which were procured with help from Berry, emails show. The Volvo lobbyist got helped EPA obtain two re-manufactured engines from Fitzgerald, a leading glider kit manufacturer.
Volvo’s Alt also turned up in Milloy’s FOIA request, sending an October 2017 email to William Charmley, EPA director of assessment & standards division, that had letters from dealerships on “the pervasiveness of [g]lider sales across America.” Alt’s email included a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and another that “even lists some of the companies they have lost sales to gliders [sic].”
Neither Charmely nor Cullen responded to TheDCNF’s request for comment, including questions about why they did not contact Fitzgerald to obtain a refurbished engine to test. Berry also did not respond to a request for comment.
Fitzgerald petitioned the Trump administration last year to repeal regulations on their industry put in place by the Obama administration. Cash-strapped companies turned to cheaper glider kits in recent years that are about 25 percent cheaper than trucks with new engines.
The Obama administration, however, wanted to end what they saw as a loophole in the Clean Air Act that allowed used engines to be sold without having to comply with current regulations.
Obama-era regulations forced Fitzgerald to cut glider kit production from 3,000 units to 300 units by the end of the year. The company announced a third-round of layoffs in mid-June.
EPA did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment. Volvo Group North America did not respond to TheDCNF either.
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