An announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) effectively retracts a proposal that would have prevented the modification of cars for auto racing.
Buried deep inside a 629-page EPA proposal published last June to slash carbon emissions by medium- and heavy-duty trucks was wording that would effectively ban aftermarket modification of cars and trucks for off-highway use. In February, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), a trade group for auto aftermarket companies, raised awareness of this seeming unrelated proposal that was almost hidden from public knowledge in a huge document that was supposed to focus on cutting emissions from heavy- and medium-duty trucks. Nowhere else in the 629-page proposal was amateur racing discussed.
SEMA showed its outrage by saying the EPA sought to prohibit the type of modifications made to street cars converted for racing use that amateur racers have taken to the track for decades.You can imagine the uproar that came from professional and non-professional motorsport enthusiasts after this information was brought to light by SEMA.
According to Steve McDonald, SEMA’s government affairs VP, the EPA ruling “would put racers and many automotive aftermarket companies at risk of penalties and elimination. It would effectively ban the act of modifying your street car into a dedicated race car, and devastate the $36 billion automotive aftermarket industry that racing supports.”
“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,” the EPA said in a statement today. “Since our attempt to clarify led to confusion, EPA has decided to eliminate the proposed language from the final rule.”
Soon after the information became public, a coalition of five members of Congress heartily supported a bill to block the measure. Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) introduced H.R. 4715, the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016, in Congress in March, co-sponsored by representatives Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Richard Hudson (R-NC), Bill Posey (R-FL), and Lee Zeldin (R-NY). “Congress never intended for race cars to be subject to the Clean Air Act,” the bill read. “The RPM Act would simply confirm that race cars are exempt from EPA regulation via the Clean Air Act.”
Additional pressure came from the Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the form of a letter to EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, asking her to clarify the legal justification for the EPA’s proposal to rule on amateur motorsports.
It appears that the outspoken grassroots opposition from SEMA, combined with Congressional pressure, was enough to convince the EPA to remove the controversial language. In a statement, the members of Congress who backed the RPM Act said “we are pleased that just days after our letter, EPA slammed the brakes on their gambit to regulate auto racing.”