Michael Bastasch, DCNF
- Environmental Protection Agency career staff admitted a Volvo lobbyist helped them procure trucks for emissions testing
- That test was then later held up by Volvo to oppose the Trump administration’s plan to roll back Obama-era rule
- Agency staffers maintain the study’s results were “independent” of Volvo
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) career staff working at the vehicle testing lab admitted to working with the lobbyist of a company opposed to the Trump administration’s agenda, according to a letter obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The letter from EPA to lawmakers on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology over alleged collusion between career staff in Michigan and auto industry lobbyists to undermine efforts to repeal Obama-era regulations on gliders — trucks with refurbished engines installed into new chasses.
Volvo “expressed a willingness to assist with EPA’s acquisition of a glider vehicle for testing through its dealership network,” reads the letter. Volvo arranged for two glider trucks to be delivered to EPA, which were tested in late 2017.
However, officials told EPA Assistant Administrator Bill Wehrum the study was conducted “independent of any outside stakeholder input,” adding that “while Volvo did provide unsolicited views on the EPA test program, EPA staff directed and carried out the test program independent from Volvo.”
Wehrum signed the letter, sent to House lawmakers investigating the matter on Thursday, but the assistant administrator hedged a bit. Wehrum wrote he “consulted with relevant staff in preparing this response.” In other words, don’t blame him if the information isn’t accurate.
The letter was first obtained by New York Times reporter Eric Lipton, whose been covering the glider kit issue for some time. The Obama administration limited the sale of glider trucks, crippling the industry.
The Trump administration has attempted to bring relief to the industry while it works to finalize repealing regulations, but internal EPA resistance and environmentalist lawsuits have delayed regulatory relief.
EPA officials also said they began the test program at the behest of Congress, contradicting emails obtained by JunkScience.com publisher Steve Milloy suggesting Volvo lobbyist Steve Berry approached them about testing gliders in September 2017.
The letter cites a July 2017 House Committee on Appropriations report on funding legislation that “urges EPA to study the emissions impact of remanufactured engines used in glider kits, compared to new engines, and issue a report to the Committee when available.”
Based on this request, EPA officials said they began to work on a glider report, according to Wehrum.
However, the legislative language EPA officials pointed to was never enacted into law. Also, EPA never sent the 2017 report with the committee as supposedly requested, but instead quietly stuck it in the regulatory docket for repealing glider regulations.
The report bore no official EPA markings, was not peer-reviewed and none of its author’s names were listed on it. Opponents of deregulating glider trucks cited the report to bolster their case against gliders, including a Volvo lobbyist.
Volvo and other truck manufacturers oppose the sale of gliders, which are cheaper than buying new trucks. Opponents say allowing used truck engines unfairly competes with new trucks and leads to more pollution. EPA’s 2017 report was held up by glider opponents as proof of their environmental harms.
The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology launched an investigation into the 2017 glider report after Milloy released emails showing Berry working with EPA officials at the vehicle testing lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to obtain gliders to test.
Berry helped EPA officials obtain two gliders for testing, including one from Fitzgerald, a major glider manufacturer. EPA officials said they made efforts to reach out to glider sellers in Michigan, however, they did not reach out to Fitzgerald, despite testing one of their products.
Emails obtained by Milloy also show Volvo lobbyist Susan Alt and Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association lobbyist Matthew Spears, a former EPA official, communicated with Ann Arbor staff about gliders.
One September 2017 email between Berry and EPA official Angela Cullen mentioned ways to “shape this request, from an ‘ideal’ perspective” when talking about obtaining gliders for testing. Berry then laid out that “ideal” request and even mentioned shouldering the costs of obtaining test vehicles.
But a March 2017 email between Berry and EPA official William Charmley sparked the attention of Milloy, in particular. Berry forwarded an email to Charmley about Fitzgerald’s activities at the Mid-America Trucking Show in 2017.
“No loss of enthusiasm by glider manufacturers,” Berry wrote to Charmley while EPA worked to finalize its repeal of Obama-era glider regulations.