- Another potential EPA overreach would harm North Carolina’s thriving motorsports industry
- The rule would forbid conversion of street-legal vehicles into racecars, as well as the sale of products that effect such conversions
- The Specialty Equipment Market Association is fighting the ruling
A proposed EPA rule, as part of regulation that would purport to control greenhouse gas emissions and impose fuel efficiency standards, could harm North Carolina’s vibrant performance auto and racing industries, according to a group that represents such businesses nationwide.
The directive, expected to be published by July, would forbid the conversion of vehicles built for on-road use into racecars, and make the sale of products that effect such conversions on those vehicles illegal. The language addressing modification of street cars for the purpose of off-road racing is part of a regulation titled “Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles—Phase 2,” under the Clean Air Act. The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) first called attention to the measure earlier this month in a press release.
“This proposed regulation represents overreaching by the agency, runs contrary to the law and defies decades of racing activity where EPA has acknowledged and allowed conversion of vehicles,” said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting. “Congress did not intend the original Clean Air Act to extend to vehicles modified for racing and has re-enforced that intent on more than one occasion.”
Former NBA player Jim McIlvaine, who blogs about sports and is an automotive racing enthusiast and travels extensively to events, said there’s “a lot on the line” with the rule, “especially in states like North Carolina.”
“The reality is these race cars and trucks make up the vast majority of motorsports in this country,” McIlvaine wrote. “Cars like purpose-built top fuel dragsters and tube-frame NASCAR stock cars that were never built to run on public roads would be exempt from these regulations, but they make up a tiny sliver of the total motorsports market.”
The North Carolina Motorsports Association estimates the industry has a $6 billion impact on the state, with more than 25,000 direct and indirect jobs related to the sport. The group says more than 90 percent of NASCAR teams are based in the Tar Heel State and it is also home to more than 1,000 motorsports-related teams, tracks, businesses and educational institutions.
EPA, in response, has explained that the proposed measure has always been law under the Clean Air Act, and that the rule is only clarifying language under the law.
“To protect public health from air pollution, the Clean Air Act has – since its inception – specifically prohibited tampering with or defeating the emission control systems on those vehicles,” said EPA spokeswoman Laura Allen to automotive Web site TorqueNews.com.
SEMA disputed the agency’s claim that the regulation only clarifies existing law, and issued a point-by-point rebuttal “debunking the myths” about the proposal to prohibit the conversion of street-legal vehicles into racecars. SEMA contended that once a road vehicle is permanently and solely converted for racing, it no longer is subject to laws – such as the Clean Air Act – that apply to road vehicles. The industry group also cited “46 years of history” of such practices and activity with no interference from EPA.
Further, SEMA pointed out that EPA plans to enforce against vehicles that have been converted in the past, and will pursue companies that have supplied parts for such vehicles. EPA also is proposing the language in a section of the rulemaking that is supposed to address medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, not cars, but was inserted as a “miscellaneous EPA amendment,” which is why SEMA did not detect the measure earlier in the process.
SEMA vowed to fight the rule via the administrative process, through Congress, and the courts. It also submitted a petition to the White House calling for the withdrawal of the EPA proposal, which had reached more than 156,000 as of this week. The Obama administration responds to all petitions that reach 100,000 signatures.
SEMA’s members – among them many business owners in North Carolina – see the move as not only a threat to their existence, but also an abuse by government.
“The last sanctuary we have, the race track, is now under attack not by lawmakers, but by a government agency slipping in a few sentences to a 600-page regulatory document unrelated to racing,” said Jordan Watson, president of National Speed, a high-performance automotive center in Wilmington, to TorqueNews.com. “Such disingenuous practices cannot be tolerated, and must be called out when uncovered.”