The EPA has proposed to repeal emissions standards for “glider trucks,” which are trucks that have a dirty, outdated diesel engine in a shiny new truck body. This week, Moms Clean Air Force staff and volunteers testified at an EPA hearing in DC to urge the agency not to repeal pollution standards for these super-polluting trucks.
Opponents of the dirty truck rollback dominated the hearing 60 to 2. Among them was Trisha Sheehan, national field manager for Moms Clean Air Force, who came from New Jersey with her toddler Lincoln to testify.
“A glider truck is basically putting a dirty diesel engine inside the body of a shiny, new truck to make us think that it is cleaner, and less polluting,” she said. “This is like wrapping up one of my son’s old bikes with flat tires and failing brakes in a new package and giving it to him for Christmas, pretending it is new and safe to ride. Despite the package, this is still his old, dirty and broken bike, too dangerous for him to ride safely. To moms, these glider trucks are still dangerous to our health.”
The rollback at issue would create a class of new trucks that are sold as new but don’t have to meet pollution standards – all to benefit a very few truck manufacturers. Participants throughout the day highlighted the serious public health consequences of allowing these trucks to spew pollution unhindered by the standards with which other new heavy trucks must comply.
The super-polluting engines in glider trucks emit harmful soot and smog-causing pollutants at dramatically higher rates than a modern diesel engine. One of these trucks emits 40 times the nitrogen oxides and particle pollution compared to a post-2012 heavy duty diesel engine.
What does that mean for air pollution? Assuming 10,000 of these glider vehicles are sold each year until 2025, these trucks would comprise 5% of the heavy truck fleet – but would account for a full one third of all NOx and PM emissions from that fleet. In other words, they would have a hugely disproportionate impact on the air we breathe.
These pollutants cause and exacerbate serious respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, such as asthma, bronchitis, stroke, heart attacks, and arrhythmia. They also contribute to low birth weight other reproductive health problems. And, they cause people to die prematurely. Indeed, if these trucks continue to be sold, EPA estimates that they would result in 1,600 premature deaths each year for a total of 6,400 premature deaths through 2021.
That estimate is conservative, as it does even not take into account the cancer impacts of diesel emissions.
Dorothy Brandt came from Seattle with a very personal reason to oppose the dirty truck loophole.
“I live in West Seattle within a mile of the Port of Seattle Industrial area,” she said. “Seattle’s port is one of the busiest on the west coast, and it is the biggest single contributor to air pollution in the county I live in. I share the roads with massive industrial trucks that contribute to particulate pollution in the air I breathe. I’ve learned this particulate pollution contributes to heart disease. I have a cardiovascular condition, so this is of particular concern to me.”
This excess pollution from glider trucks is not a small problem. In fact, it makes Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal look trivial by comparison. US Volkswagens affected by the emissions scandal caused an estimated total of 59 excess deaths over six years. 59 deaths over six years compared to 6,400 deaths over four years. The proposed glider trucks loophole is more than 100 times more polluting than the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Volkswagen had to pay more than $14 billion in fines. And here we have Scott Pruitt’s EPA trying to pull a fast one on us in plain sight.
As moms who care about our children’s health, we say no.
Scott Pruitt’s EPA has shown again and again its support for dirty tailpipes and dirty smokestacks, and a disregard for EPA’s core mission of protecting Americans from harmful pollution. Moms across the country depend on the EPA for protection against toxic air pollution and the devastating effects of climate change. These rollbacks put Americans’ health at risk.