Every once in a while, I think about James Madison’s touching belief that Americans would elect “the best and brightest” to represent them in the halls of government. (He’s probably spinning so fast in his grave he may be in China by now.)

Anyone who reads or listens to the news can contribute their own preferred anecdote to the daily and dispiriting evidence of ideology, idiocy and/or corruption in Washington, so file this post under “what else is new?” I must say, however, the violation of previously respected norms and basic rational expectations is becoming more blatant by the day.

The New York Times first carried the story I’m sharing today.The title is the giveaway: “How $225,000 Can Help Secure a Pollution Loophole at Trump’s EPA.”

CROSSVILLE, Tenn. — The gravel parking lot at the Fitzgerald family’s truck dealership here in central Tennessee was packed last week with shiny new Peterbilt and Freightliner trucks, as well as a steady stream of buyers from across the country.

But there is something unusual about the big rigs sold by the Fitzgeralds: They are equipped with rebuilt diesel engines that do not need to comply with rules on modern emissions controls. That makes them cheaper to operate, but means that they spew 40 to 55 times the air pollution of other new trucks, according to federal estimates, including toxins blamed for asthma, lung cancer and a range of other ailments.

The special treatment for the Fitzgerald trucks is made possible by a loophole in federal law that the Obama administration tried to close, and the Trump administration is now championing. The trucks, originally intended as a way to reuse a relatively new engine and other parts after an accident, became attractive for their ability to evade modern emissions standards and other regulations.

The survival of this loophole is a story of money, politics and suspected academic misconduct, according to interviews and government and private documents, and has been facilitated by Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who has staked out positions in environmental fights that benefit the Trump administration’s corporate backers.

How, exactly, did this happen?

Representative Diane Black is a Republican running  for Tennessee governor. Tennessee Technological University is a state university that had produced a study minimizing pollution problems associated with the trucks. Ms. Black introduced legislation in 2015  to protect the loophole when the Obama Administration wanted to eliminate it. That bill failed, but after Trump was elected, she turned to Mr. Pruitt to carve out an exemption to the rule —  and presented him with the study from Tennessee Tech.

Surprise! Fitzgerald had  paid for the study, and had offered to build a new research center for the university on land owned by the company. It further sweetened the deal by generating at least $225,000 in donations to Ms. Black’s campaign.

Both businesses and environmentalists have condemned the loophole. That includes major truck makers like Volvo and Navistar, as well as fleet owners like the United Parcel Service. Even pro-business, pro-corporate, big-clout lobbyists like the National Association of Manufacturers have weighed in against it, joining health and environmental groups like the American Lung Association and the Consumer Federation of America.

In any other administration, a roster of opponents like those would shame government officials into backing down and ensuring that the rules applied to everyone. But not this collection of Trump’s “best people.” They’re shameless.

Not only are the favors being dispensed manifestly unfair to Fitzgerald’s competitors, not only does a quid pro quo that can be seen from space undermine trust in government and the rule of law, but this particular “favor” adds to the pollution of the air we all breathe, and contributes to climate change. (I know–Scott Pruitt refuses to admit that climate change exists. I’m convinced he knows better; it’s just that it is in his personal, political and financial interest to say otherwise.)

The current Republican Party–especially as represented in Congress and the Administration– is what you get when you marry a cult (Pence, Evangelicals, gun nuts and anti-intellectuals) to the Mafia (Paul Ryan, the Koch brothers, Trump and his sleazy cronies.)

They all need to be soundly defeated in November and in 2020.


  1. The demand for these re-built engines for trucks comes from owner/operators who make more profit by using less fuel. And those owner/operators voted for who in the last election? This is a gift to the base, pure and simple.

  2. It’s business as usual in Washington where Kleptocracy rules. And yes, when you’re nothing more than a “politician for hire to the highest bidder”, we will not get strong ethical and moral leaders. We’ll get puppets.

    The basis for the Citizens United ruling was Donors didn’t ask for anything in return – no reciprocity. Too bad our SCOTUS is also a fraud.

    So far, only Bernie Sanders has placed “Overturn Citizens United” on his platform. The Democrats aren’t interested because Wall Street pays very well. And so do the jobs guaranteed to politicians who do the Donor’s bidding. Lucrative consulting contracts once they leave office.

    Which corrupt group does less damage? The lesser of two evils?

    It’s not the government and the slimy politicians – it’s capitalism.

  3. If I recall correctly, Ms. Black has committed other terrible crimes against the people who vote her into office. She is a horrible, despicable waste of flesh who needs to be outed to the people in TN.

  4. Grifters, Oligarchs, Plutocrats. The vulgarian and today’s GOP make Grant and Harding look like mere pikers.

  5. Im a career trucker, 38 years worth,lets take sometime to see,why this truck scene has unfolded. first off, the so called emission of a older diesel ,is no where near the 40-50 times as bad as new diesels,put one on a dyno,and run it, against the older ones, theres little diffrence, if the engine is driven,and maintained with regular tuneups. second, heres the major reason why, this new emission equiped truck has a problem,the emission equipment.. if anyone who has driven one,will atest, breakdowns are as common as flat tires,all 18 of them. you have three levels of regen(,regeneration),this is the area,where the computer senses the buildup of soot in the DPF(,diesel partical filter,)level one,light on dash, expect to stop,and regen, its a process of heating up the DPF to burn out the heavy soot,and powder it. the second level, is where the light on the dash says,better find a spot to park. regen can take 10 minutes,30 minutes,and its isnt based on the level of soot in the DPF.. level three,if your not parked,its going into limp mode.Creep speed,and you have no way to stop,it. now, heres the problem, many times, this regen will complete, then a half mile,half hour,half way down the road, its starts this scenerio over again,,this is a fault,in the ECM, eletronic control modual… and its very common. imagine being on the clock, loggs, a set appointment,no leway, crowded highway,no place to park,and it just shuts you down….Im sure we all,can say why doesnt the manufactuer fix it, because they cant find the reasons…or, some of the emission equipment is faulty,and that also is a problem,so,is the replecemant part. this has also raised the cost of a truck, 20-30,000 dollars,just because of this emission stuff. reality, you cant make a fuel burning engine,,,,EPA clean,and they know,it.. the cost of operating this truck has a increase that makes a 300 dollar oil change look like a truck wash, 100 dollars,,? is chump change.replacement or the DPF, the unit is 1200 to 2000 dollars,(the part alone)plus labor.yearly,above the cost of shut downs,go to a shop,towed to a shop,reboot the ECM,or replace it,or, the emission system,people,who own cars,have no clue where and why,because they, get things fixed,we get excusses from the manufacture … those glider trucks are safe,clean and will not have the major headaches,when we,as a whole diffrent enity,have what you have,reliability. if you want to run one on a dyno,and match it with a new emission truck, contact pittsburg power, a diesel shop,specializing in after market ECMs, and equipment,those who write against us,are not,doing the realworld study. until we go,to CNG or electric,it will,remain this way.. The EPA can hype this all they want,but they dont have to make a living,driving a overpriced truck,with no better standards than the old. theres plenty of dirty cars out there,balance the field,quit over regulating us, because you dont see the real,world. we like clean air to,and we would like to live in a world that is bright and shiny. If the real world is, electric, then you need more power plants,or, natural gas power plants.renwables,it still need a generator to make the cycles,to become the study. I make my living out here, my beef,the way people drive,like their all mad,all pissed,and its prevalent. in turn,you make our jobs tougher,and if you want to,regulate us, then we should demand,you drive like a responsable person,to yourself,and others..common sense isnt cheap,but we dont expect your buisness to shut down,or be harrased,because someone doesnt have the correct information,or see what a buisness owner in our field has to deal with,every day. Im a Bernie voter,a progressive,and always will be,but, reality is king,and its killing us… be safe,and drive safe…

  6. My wife and I live in the far North Woods of Minnesota, and even here I have a worry about using my diesel tractor (NON-EPA compliant engine sold by Northern Tractor… as I came to find out.) But being I have not been able to update my tractor situation, each time I go out to work I think about the reports of honeybees being affected by diesel exhaust… we have lost over the past 28 years, almost all our bees up in our area… thankfully we still have some Bumble Bees. People don’t get it – it is simple: you CRAP IN YOUR NEST – you have to sleep in it. And I think about now MOM (Mother Earth) is almost totally fed up with these ‘unruly children’ she has running all over the place, and believe you me, the spankings are about to begin.

  7. To Jack Smith: we have to accept your statements because 98% of the public are ignorant about the subject. Thank you for your post. We readers need to send this to our MOCs. Be safe, and drive safe – to the 98%, what is said about motorcycles, they are everywhere and vulnerable, is true of trucks. If you own it a truck brought it.

  8. More simply put: Republicanism is the bane of our republic. It is irretrievably wed to money, corruption, money, greed, money and self-absorption. Did I say money?

    Everything they’re doing to destroy all the good ever done for our people is linked either directly or indirectly to money and the corruption it breeds. The difference between Republicans and Democrats in this vein, is that Democrats don’t rub peoples’ noses in their shit and actually try to do the most good for the most people. Republicans do none of these things.

  9. You know what’s really ironic? These losers and their children will all breathe the same air as the rest of us. It’s not like Mother Nature favors “businesses”!

  10. Jack, Thank you for sharing your real life experience in trucking. You are right in that so many in cars are driving like they are angry or afraid or distracted (cell phones). I fear the big trucks when I am on the highway. They are much bigger than I and will always cause me more damage than I will them. I also have bad reactions to diesel fumes, hard to breath, eyes water, etc.

    I ask these questions with due respect. Do the manufacturers of diesel engines all sell products with the same emissions? Is there any difference in manufacturers in the U.S and in other countries? Is it too expensive to produce an engine that is more efficient and less polluting?

    I think the point that Sheila is making is that the degree of corruption in this instance is egregious and apparently shameless. It goes on at all levels of government. When those with money and its greater influence on and access to power get special consideration and manufacture findings to support their favored status, we all lose.

  11. Yep, when Trump promised to drain the swamp, some might have thought he meant he would be getting rid of the crooks. Well, no, he just meant he was draining it to give the crooks dryer and firmer footing.

  12. Sheila, I fear, has called only one corrupted process to our attention when, I suspect, there are many more. We are well-advised to note not only the language of statutes but the final rules implementing such statutes, because they frequently vary. Trouble is, nowadays it’s Republican-dominated committees that oversee such rule making, so good luck. Oh, we can go to court? Good luck on that, too, as motions, appeals and other delays render such suits in many cases a waste of time.

    Sheila’s final suggestion that we win the election this fall and (me speaking), if at all possible, come up with both a House and a Senate majority, is the ultimate answer. Alternatively, unless we run out of oxygen before, perhaps innovation will come to our rescue – like electric trucks that will make diesels obsolete – perhaps.

  13. First we ought to let science inform on the benefits of various levels of pollution control. Nobody else is in a position to base such an evaluation on measurements, data, evidence.

    Second we ought to accept that such protections are not free. Inform consumers of the impact on everything that they consume. $100 per year for the average consumer or $1,000 per year would make a huge difference.

    Third is really the point of Sheila’s article. If the costs are borne equally by all truckers there is no disadvantage to any of them. There should be no exceptions.

    Clearly there is nothing profound about any of this. It’s just good professional governance. It’s just good problem solving. It’s just common sense.

    That’s what’s missing in the wake of letting the least informed, including our well known enemies, elect an administration using the outdated Electoral College supported by those who need it to get elected.

    There’s nothing wrong with the way the US has traditionally done government. We need to get back to it.

    All Ds in ‘18 and ‘20.

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