- New bill prompts EPA to back off plans to regulate former street vehicles
- The EPA regulation would have forbid conversion of street-legal vehicles into racecars, as well as the sale of products that effect such conversions
- “RPM Act”, co-sponsored by several NC representatives, would overturn EPA rule
Republican Patrick McHenry, North Carolina’s Representative from the 10th District in the U.S. House, credits a bill he introduced with causing the Environmental Protection Agency to back off plans to penalize racecar owners when they modify the emissions systems on their former street vehicles.
Two months ago Civitas Institute reported that EPA intended to prevent the alteration of automobiles for the purpose of off-road racing. The discovery of the regulation caused uproar among members of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), which represents the automotive modification industry. Many said the plan would shut down much of the off-road motorsports business, as those who track race often do so with vehicles that were once streetcars that have been altered.
“The EPA’s attempt to regulate amateur racers is misguided and unnecessary,” McHenry said in a statement on Friday. “Not only is racing a beloved pastime for countless Americans, it also employs millions including many here in western North Carolina.”
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EPA’s planned decree, which it rescinded on Friday, would have disallowed adjustments to automobiles to boost their performance.
“Certified motor vehicles and motor vehicle engines and their emission control devices must remain in their certified configuration,” the proposed rule stated, “even if they are used solely for competition or if they become non-road vehicles or engines.”
McHenry’s measure, titled the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act (“RPM Act”), attempted to eliminate the rule. EPA had proposed the order under the Clean Air Act, as part of a regulation intended to address greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty engines and vehicles – not automobiles. Because of the rule’s miscategorization by EPA, SEMA did not notice the troubling language until mid-February, when it sent out an alert to its membership. The comment period for the rule had already closed, but after the controversy, EPA re-opened it for 30 days.
“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 in early February.
Over 168,000 people signed a petition asking the Obama administration to withdraw the proposal. Meanwhile Rep. Richard Hudson, R-8th, last week co-authored a letter with fellow members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
“The EPA’s proposed racing regulation threatens the way of life for a lot of Americans who enjoy modifying cars for competition and a billion-dollar industry of aftermarket folks who make the parts,” Hudson said on Tuesday. “When I questioned the Administrator about this ridiculous government overreach, she assured me that wasn’t the EPA’s intent. Today I’m following through to guarantee that the intent Administrator McCarthy expressed is reflected and to protect North Carolina jobs and the future of racing.”
Besides Hudson, Reps. Virginia Foxx and David Rouzer also co-sponsored McHenry’s legislation, which he says is still needed, despite EPA’s withdrawal.
“While it’s positive to see the EPA react to my legislation, the need for Congressional action on the RPM Act remains,” McHenry said. “Passing the RPM Act into law is the only way to ensure this ill-advised, job-killing regulation is stopped for good.”