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EPA Tried to Ease Rule on Truck Pollution but Backs Off — For Now

Federal agency will enforce regulation that curbs pollution from diesel trucks after court sides with several states, including New Jersey. But skirmishing expected to continue

diesel exhaust

Reversing course, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has decided against blocking enforcement of a new rule aimed at limiting pollution from super-polluting diesel trucks.

New Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler opted to enforce so-called glider truck requirements one week after the D.C. Circuit Court issued a temporary stay against a prior agency decision not to enforce the regulation.

The court decision indicated it would side with environmental groups and several states, including New Jersey, that sued the agency for ceasing to enforce the rule, which was put in place by the Obama administration.

The regulation, dubbed the glider-truck rule, limited how many rebuilt truck engines could be put in new truck bodies. The older engines produce as much as 40 times the pollution of modern engines, according to environmentalists.

The rule, which the Trump administration tried to roll back as harmful to business interests, imposes an annual cap on glider trucks of 300 per manufacturer. If not enforced, as many as 10,000 such trucks could have been put on the road each year, according to critics.

The move to ease enforcement of the rule occurred on former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s final day in office before he resigned amid numerous ethic scandals.

‘Very important for New Jersey’

“Stopping this rollback is very important for New Jersey,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the state chapter of the Sierra Club, which was one of the group’s challenging Pruitt’s decision. “New Jersey is a corridor state because of the turnpike and other major highways. Trucks are the oldest and they produce the most emissions.’’

Earlier this month, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal joined with 15 other states in suing the EPA over its decision to suspend the glider-truck rule, calling the move “blatantly unlawful.’’ The state of New Jersey has filed numerous suits against the Trump administration for rolling back several environmental statutes, including relaxing fuel-economy standards for cars.

“States like New Jersey have been standing up to the EPA ever since I took office,’’ Grewal said, “and EPA’s decision to admit defeat and continue enforcing important limits on super polluting trucks shows why our work matters.’’

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe noted the issue is not settled, however, and vowed to work with the Attorney General’s office to enforce protections for clean air and public health.

The EPA is expected to continue to work on the regulations to ease the rule, in order to put them on more solid legal ground when faced with challenges from states and environmentalists.

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