With a combination of the sensational must-click words “emails,” “colluded,” and “Trump,” the headline of a Daily Caller story that ran at the top the site’s homepage for a while yesterday promises a major revelation. The story, spoon-fed to Koch operative Michael Bastasch by bedwetting-obsessed industry lobbyist Steve Milloy, is not about what those three SEO-optimized words may suggest, but rather alleges that the EPA colluded with Volvo to attack the glider truck industry.
For those not well-versed in the shipping industry, trucks with new cabs but old, rebuilt engines are known as gliders. Because they’re not technically “new,” gliders traditionally weren’t subject to the same pollution controls as new trucks--despite the fact that they emit as much as 450 times the pollution of a new truck. This loophole was closed during the Obama administration, and then, for the low-low price of $250,000, was re-opened by Pruitt and Trump last fall.
It should come as no surprise that Milloy is a big proponent of these polluters, though of course we don’t know if that’s just because someone’s paying him to focus on the issue. According to emails from fall 2017 that Milloy FOIA’d (because apparently, unlike actual reporters, he doesn’t have to wait years on end for his requests) Volvo supplied the EPA with a couple of glider trucks so that the agency could test them. Then, likely because the research contradicted Trump and Pruitt’s agenda to roll back the regulations on gliders, the study was never officially released by the EPA.
That’s the entirety of this manufactured scandal. But Milloy loaded up his post about the emails with inflammatory language about the EPA’s test, supposedly conducted by a “rogue EPA lab chief,” as part of a “conspiracy,” to destroy the glider industry with the “bogus” and “rigged” test (presumably because it found the gliders so dirty, though Milloy doesn’t actually ever explain his allegations). And of course Bastasch seemed plenty happy to give Milloy the ink to spin up the wild conspiracy theory, while only describing the lifelong pro-pollution lobbyist as “an attorney and junk science blogger.”
In his post, Milloy points out that Volvo supplied the EPA with gliders from Fitzgerald, one of the biggest manufacturers of these regulation-dodging trucks. Why, Milloy wonders, didn’t the EPA just ask Fitzgerald directly for help procuring gliders? Why go through a major carmaker--one Milloy seems to suggest is corrupt because of its opposition to the glider rule?
As it turns out, Fitzgerald did provide the EPA with a test of its own, designed specifically for the agency’s use justifying the rollback. But maybe Milloy didn’t mention it because it was subsequently disavowed by Tennessee Tech, the school that housed the research.
Faculty revolted after the study came out because it was overseen by someone without any graduate training, conducted by a team with no qualified engineers, and done at a Fitzgerald-owned facility with Fitzgerald funding. The head of Tennessee Tech’s Engineer department said the study reached a “far-fetched, scientifically implausible claim.” Nevertheless, as intended, Pruitt is using it to defend his roll-back of the Obama-era closure of the glider loophole.
Now, if Bastasch were a real reporter, he perhaps would have mentioned this actual scandal of biased glider research in his story about supposedly biased glider research. Then there’s the question of whether Milloy is paid to work on this issue, something that might better inform the Daily Caller’s readers as to whether Milloy’s take on this biased research is biased. At a minimum, Bastasch should have asked Milloy to provide the research that he claims shows that gliders perform better than new trucks, an unsupported assertion Bastasch quote Milloy saying.
But instead of acting like a reporter, Bastasch does his real job: defending Pruitt, and misleading the Daily Caller’s audience with one-sided storytelling from a career shill that puts polluter profits before public health.
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