The EPA’s decision last week to reverse course on “glider trucks,” super-polluting 18-wheelers, represents the most hopeful sign to date that the agency may be returning to a more rational plan after the tenure of Scott Pruitt. Gliders are, in short, rebuilt trucks. Makers put sleek new bodies on highly-polluting diesel engines that have been retooled. Pruitt ordered his agency not to enforce limits on how many glider trucks and their makers, including Fitzgerald Glider Kits (a Tennessee-based supporter of President Donald Trump), can be put on the road.

That’s great for Fitzgerald, but it’s bad for anyone who likes to breathe. Scientists have found that glider trucks produce 40 to 50 times more pollution than trucks made since 2014 when tougher emissions standards went into effect. They may be cheaper to operate, but that’s only when they are subsidized by the health and well-being of human beings and other organisms.

What made Pruitt’s choice all the more obnoxious was that reducing the toxic materials associated with burning diesel fuel has been one of the EPA’s better success stories. Experts have estimated that the U.S. has been spared thousands of premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of cases of respiratory illnesses because the government clamped down on exhaust from diesel engines that are 10 times more polluting than their gasoline counterparts.

Now, it’s entirely possible that Pruitt’s replacement as administrator, Andrew Wheeler, was simply being pragmatic, choosing to withdraw the “no action assurance” letter posted by Pruitt because the arguments for that decision — now under challenge in a federal appeals court — were so flimsy and the decision likely would not have held up to legal review anyway. While glider makers like Fitzgerald stood to benefit, Pruitt’s policy was bad for U.S. truck manufacturers. That made the choice not so much pro-business as pro-a-favored-business.

But if it’s Wheeler’s intent is to put the EPA on a more rational and responsible path — one that hews more closely to the agency’s 48-year-old mission statement of protecting human and environmental health — he has plenty more chances ahead. The first might be to back down from the Trump administration’s recent call for a single fuel efficiency standard in the United States and to freeze that standard at the current federal level for a decade or more.

Perhaps if enough Americans express their appreciation for the EPA’s reversal on glider trucks, President Donald Trump and his acting EPA administrator will get the message that voters care about protecting the environment — and being able to breathe.

Editorial by The Baltimore Sun

Visit The Baltimore Sun at www.baltimoresun.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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