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SEMA Seeks Congressional Support Opposing EPA Racing Mod Rules

SEMA is enlisting its allies in U.S. Congress and spreading awareness on Capitol Hill regarding its opposition to EPA regulations proposed in July. The new rules—or “clarifications” to the Clean Air Act, according to the EPA—challenge the legality of cars modified to race with customized emission control systems.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy briefly addressed the issue on Thursday when being questioned by the U.S. House Agriculture Committee.

“We are reaching out to members of Congress to clarify the issue with them and to get their support in changing this before its finalized this July,” said Peter MacGillivray, SEMA vice president of events and communications.

SEMA became aware of the EPA’s intentions on modified race cars some time before Christmas. The association held several discussions with the agency to seek clarification and oppose the rule-making language before deciding to launch its petition on Feb. 9.  

“My sense is it was those conversations weren’t going anywhere,” MacGillivray told THE SHOP. “There wasn’t consensus on the EPA side that they were willing to take any action to address these concerns of ours.”

The aftermarket industry and car enthusiasts largly support a SEMA-authored White House petition launched last week opposing the EPA’s modified race car measures. The White House is expected to respond to the petition within the next two months.

“This is a path we rarely take to enlist the voice of all the stakeholders in our industry and to raise awareness, but its certainly one we’re very pleased to receive such a tremendous response," the largest response MacGillivray has seen in his 15 years spent with SEMA, he said. 

The industrywide support has helped provide fuel to SEMA’s opposition campaign, even though the EPA-allotted public comment period on its proposals ended in September.  

“The formal comment section is closed but there are ways we can provide them feedback and guidance. That’s exactly what we’re doing,” MacGillivray said. “We’re also able to publish our remarks on their website; there’s the petition that we posted on the White House website; there are several avenues that will help us address this. 

“To their credit, they are paying attention to it,” he said.

MacGillivray also stated his frustration to how the EPA has responded to the media on the issue.

“We’ve seen somewhat confusing feedback from the EPA spokesperson where they’re clarifying their clarification. That doesn’t strike me as very positive but it underscores my point that its misconceived and would impact a lot of people,” he said. “It’s clear they are not being direct—they are not saying what they mean. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for us to have an expectation that they are clear in their lawmaking language.”

SEMA’s government affairs division believes it uncovered contradictions in EPA proposals found in a 629-page document created to present new rules on medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and engines. Language regarding motorsports is delivered in the latter half of the document.

“We’ve brought these contradictions to their attention and are hearing, ‘don’t worry about it, it doesn’t apply to motorsports,’” MacGillivray said. “Well, it does apply to motorsports, because thats what (the document) says.”

The EPA, in statements delivered to the press, said its proposals aren’t meant to enact change in competitive racing and that tampering with a car’s emission control has always been against the law.  

“Then the question begs to ask, ‘if they aren’t changing anything, why are they writing this?’ Well, they’re doing it to clarify, but they’re not being clear,” MacGillivray said. “Another thing that has struck me is when (the EPA) says that this has always been the law, but they don’t intend to enforce it,” he said. “Should we really be actively making laws that we don’t intend to enforce? Any reasonable person would see that this is flawed.”

THE SHOP has submitted questions to the EPA and is awaiting its response.