Public backlash causes EPA to put brakes on new rule that would have prevented vehicle modification
After sharp national backlash from racing fans, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withdrew a proposed regulation that could have effectively banned the majority of U.S. auto racing.
Last year the EPA proposed a relatively obscure new rule that would have prevented the modification or removal of the emissions systems on a production car even if the modified vehicle was intended for off-road use only.
The proposal would have reversed a decades-long exemption from the Clean Air Act that allowed such modifications as long as the vehicles were designated for track use.
A large number of race cars, especially at lower levels of competition, depend on production cars that are specially modified for competition.
Without the exemption, those who modified their vehicles for racing could have faced a huge fine for violating the Clean Air Act. Companies who manufactured parts for such conversions would also have run afoul of the new regulation.
When news of the proposed rule change became public, members of the Specialty Equipment Manufacturing Association (SEMA), which represents a $30 billion racing and performance parts industry, joined forces with fans of motorsports to lobby Congress to oppose the agency’s rule change.
The effort seems to have worked.
“The wording of the EPA rule would have destroyed the world of racing and the billions of dollars that go with it,” said Ralph Sheheen, the CEO of Speed Sport, who testified at a recent Congressional hearing about the rule. “From Saturday night short-track dirt racing to local drag strips, as far up the line as the Pirelli World Challenge, which is based on production vehicles — it would have ripped the heart out of racing for thousands of people.”
After Fred Upton (R-MI) the chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, began questioning the new regulation, the EPA quickly withdrew the rule.
“We want to thank Congress for pushing the EPA to withdraw an ill-conceived proposal,” Chris Kersting, head of the Specialty Equipment Manufacturer’s Association, which represents racing parts manufacturers, told the Detroit News. “However, confusion reigns. Only clarifying legislation … will confirm that such activity is legal and beyond the reach of future EPA regulations.”
SEMA is now lobbying for the passage of the RPM Act (Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports), a bipartisan bill introduced last month that would enshrine the exclusion for off-road vehicles into law, ensuring the agency could not propose a similar regulation change in the future.
The EPA for its part now contends the rule change was never actually meant to affect racing in a statement released after the proposed rule change was withdrawn.
“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,” said the EPA’s statement. “Since our attempt to clarify led to confusion, the EPA has decided to eliminate the proposed language from the final rule.”
Fred Upton, however, disagreed.
“The proposed race car provisions are just one of many attempts at regulatory overreach under the Obama administration, and we will continue to scrutinize all of them in a common-sense way,” said Upton.
Either way, racing fans, your sport is safe for now.