SEMA Not Yet Satisfied After EPA Cancels Race Mod Proposal

Apr 18, 2016

The EPA announced Friday that it has abandoned regulatory language proposed last year that specifically addressed engine modifications on street cars made to race. The agency was facing mounting political pressure from Congress and continuous protests from racing enthusiasts and the automotive aftermarket regarding proposals from its Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles regulatory document.

“The proposed language in the July 2015 proposal was never intended to represent any change in the law or in EPA’s policies or practices towards dedicated competition vehicles,” stated the EPA on Friday with a post on its website. “Since our attempt to clarify led to confusion, EPA has decided to eliminate the proposed language from the final rule.”

Click to read the entire EPA statement

The EPA statement added that the agency “supports motorsports and its contributions to the American economy and communities all across the country,” and that its regulatory “focus is not on vehicles built or used exclusively for racing.” The agency, however, persisted with a position that continues to draw criticism from SEMA and its stakeholders.

“It has always been illegal under the Clean Air Act to disable pollution controls on motor vehicles used on public roads,” an unnamed agency spokesperson told THE SHOP through email. “EPA’s focus is not on vehicles built or used exclusively for racing, but on companies that don’t play by the rules and that make and sell these defeat devices for motor vehicles used on public roads.”

SEMA meanwhile is encouraging its members and supporters to contact members of Congress in support of the RPM Act, a bill launched with the association’s support that would clarify that street cars modified to race are off-limits to government regulation.

“I think it’s a good step that the EPA withdrew the proposed regulation. However, the EPA has continued to maintain its position that it is illegal to decertify the emissions configuration for a street vehicle. I’m quite concerned by actions that EPA may take in the future when they hold that interpretation of the law,” SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting told THE SHOP. “For that reason, SEMA continues to push for a legislative provision in the Clean Air Act that makes it clear that vehicles can be converted if they’re going to be used only for competition.”

The EPA, when pressed as to why the race engine modification proposal was included in its medium- and heavy-duty regulatory rule making, told THE SHOP that “the language was intended to clarify distinctions for different categories of vehicles under the Clean Air Act.”

“We’ve never understood that statement of purpose from the EPA,” Kersting said. “We look at the language of the proposed regulation and it couldn’t be more crystal clear: It would, for the first time, put into the laws and regulations a prohibition against modifying a certified road vehicle, even though the vehicle would be used for competition only.

“That’s the plain language that is there,” he said. “I can’t understand how EPA would expect anybody in the regulated community to understand or read that language differently.”

The RPM Act (H.R. 4715), currently assigned to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has added 42 additional bill sponsors since debuting on March 7. The bill now has 47 sponsors, including five Democrats. Four Republican senators and one Democrat support the Senate’s version of the RPM Act (S. 2659), which was introduced on March 9.

“The grassroots support for the RPM Act has been tremendous in addition to the initial response to the White House petition that generated 100,000 signatures in less than 24 hours,” Kersting said. “In just a few weeks, we have subsequently generated over 80,000 letters to members of Congress from concerned parties. We have only just begun.”

The EPA told THE SHOP that the agency will work with the aftermarket industry through its regulatory efforts moving forward.

“The agency will continue to engage with the racing industry and others about ways to ensure that EPA supports racing, and while maintaining the agency’s focus where it has always been: reducing pollution from the cars and trucks that travel along America’s roadways and through our neighborhoods,” the unnamed spokesperson said.

Sensing a shift in how the EPA interprets the Clean Air Act, Kersting said SEMA will continue to monitor future action by the EPA that could possibly threaten the performance and racing aftermarket.

“I think the approach the EPA used in this rule-making caused them a great deal of political pressure and there was enough confusion among the stakeholders-”and within the EPA-”that it just made more sense to pull the proposed regulation for now, fall back and figure out how they want to go about trying to assert this new-found authority,” he said. “We feel that this most recent interpretation of the Clean Air Act, markedly different from 46 years of prior EPA policy and practice, is unreasonable and not supported by the statute. That’s why we want Congress to make it clear with a  specific provision in the Clean Air Act that conversion of certified configurations for race purposes is legal.”