All images courtesy NHRA.com
It was announced recently that the EPA had introduced regulations that would effectively eliminate our ability to build race cars. However, contrary to popular belief, this wasn’t new rulemaking as many would lead you to believe. On the contrary, it was actually clarification of rulemaking contained in the Clean Air Act that specifies that tampering with a road vehicle’s emissions systems is illegal. So, in other words, if you drive your emissions-control-equipped car to and from the track (and/or car shows) and have removed the mandatory emissions controls, it is technically illegal.
Those of us in the automotive industry already knew this. This has been the case ever since these emissions controls were mandated many years ago. Even more, the rule/law isn’t set to go into effect until 2018 and there is no language in it that would make it retroactive. This means that even if it stays in place, the cars you’ve got are safe.
However, this new interpretation of the rule raised a lot of hackles, causing a hew and cry. Automotive aftermarket industry lobbyists got moving and convinced Congress to introduce legislation that would clarify things, ensuring that we are able to continue without hobby without worry of running afoul of the law.
EPA Says Ruling Is Aimed at Modified Cars Used on Public Roads and Highways
It’s always been assumed by those of us in the automotive aftermarket community that these emissions laws only pertained to cars that were used on roads and highways, not cars built exclusively for racing. This can be seen if you visit a site like Edlebrock. There are quite a number of parts that you can buy from these companies that are clearly labeled “Not for use on street vehicles: or similar wording.
Not long after the news of the ruling became public this year, the EPA made efforts to inform us that we don’t have anything to worry about if our modified production cars weren’t used on public roads. EPA spokeswoman Laura Allen sent out a notice that clarified this stance: “This clarification does not affect EPA’s enforcement authority. It is still illegal to tamper with or defeat the emission control systems of motor vehicles. In the course of selecting cases for enforcement, the EPA has and will continue to consider whether the tampered vehicle is used exclusively for competition. The EPA remains primarily concerned with cases where the tampered vehicle is used on public roads, and more specifically with automotive aftermarket manufacturers who sell devices that defeat emissions control systems on vehicles used on public roads.” (My emphasis added.) If you trailer your vehicle to and from the track, you have nothing to worry about.
Congress Takes Action to Protect Race Car Conversions
Not long after this news hit the wires, SEMA lobbyists submitted model legislation to both houses of Congress to ensure that we’re able to enjoy our hobby and sport in the future. SEMA called this legislation “The Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016”,” the RPM Act. Recognizing that this EPA ruling could have a seriously negative impact on a more than $36 billion industry, some members of Congress signed on and introduced legislation in both the House and the Senate. North Carolina’s Representative Patrick McHenry introduced House Resolution 4715, while the same state’s Senator Richard Burr introduced S. 2659.
In a nutshell, both bills state that the EPA does not have the authority to “regulate vehicles that are used exclusively competition, and other uses.” The RPM Act modifies the language of 42 U.S.C. 7522 by adding the following text at the end of subsection (a):
“No action with respect to any device or element of design described in paragraph (3) shall be treated as a prohibited act under that paragraph if the action is for the purpose of modifying a motor vehicle to be used solely for competition.”
Further, both bills would modify Section 216 of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7550) would be amended by striking the period at the end of paragraph (2) and adding the following language:
“and that is not a vehicle used solely for competition, including any vehicle so used that was converted from a motor vehicle.”
Automotive enthusiasts around the country should contact their members of Congress and show their support for both of these pieces of legislation to ensure that we’re able to continue enjoying our hobby and sport in perpetuity. Members of the House of Representatives can be found by heading of the House webpage, while contact information for your senators can be found by visiting the Senate’s webpage.