The EPA is not attempting to end motorsports or take away your racecar
[dropcap style=”style1″]F[/dropcap]ebruary 2016 was a frightful month for automotive racers and enthusiasts when everyone got word of a proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that seemed like they wanted to ban anyone from turning a road car into a track-only race car.
The craziness all started when Specialty Equipment Manufacturer Association (SEMA) started circulating a press release claiming that “the EPA seeks to prohibit conversion of vehicles into race cars.”
The release quickly gained attention and the car community reacted in a panic on social media, news outlets, and petitions with headlines reading “here’s how to fight the EPA ban on building a race car,” “tell the EPA to withdraw its proposal to prohibit the conversion of vehicles into race cars,” and “prevent the EPA from banning vehicle modifications.”
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t going a bit stir-crazy about this myself, at the time. I was scouring articles and signing all the petitions that I came across. Yes, maybe even I too, went a little over board. But the whole time I could not stop thinking “how dare they take away my ability to have a fun-mobile.”
So let’s back track a bit here, let’s got back to before SEMA sent out that shocker of a press release. Let’s go back to July of 2015.
Within that text was an amendment to an already existing federal rule that simply reiterated the Clean Air Act policy on road vehicles equipped with emissions controls. According that rule, owners, operators, aftermarket companies, and service businesses may not tamper with or remove emissions equipment on vehicles already fitted with them, whether they be dedicated race cars or not. There was even a two month window for public comments and concerns that closed on September 11, 2015 with little to no complaints accounted for.
No one bothered to give it a second glance until February 2016 when SEMA circulated the press release. While the headline of the SEMA press release correctly assesses the EPA’s position, it also happens to overstate the notion that anything has changed. Regardless, the car community was still inflamed about their passion.
In response to the outraged fans and racers, EPA’s Laura Allen released the following statement to try and clarify the agency’s position:
“People may use EPA-Certified motor vehicles for competition, but to protect public health from air pollution, the Clean Air Act has–since it’s inception–specifically prohibited tampering with or defeating the emission control systems on vehicles. The proposed regulation that SEMA has commented on does not change this long standing law or approach. We have simply clarified the distinction between motor vehicles and non-road vehicles such as dirt bikes and snowmobiles which may, under certain circumstances, be modified for use in competitive events in ways that would otherwise be prohibited by the Clean Air Act. This clarification does not affect EPA’s enforcement authority. It is still illegal to tamper with or defeat the emissions control systems of motor vehicles. We are focused primarily on aftermarket manufacturers who sell devices that defeat emissions control systems on vehicles used on public roads.”
The fact of the matter is that the wording on the bill, and what was highlighted by SEMA which caused all of this commotion, is not a newly established rule outlawing a previously allowed activity, but rather the EPA is only trying to clarify their wording of an existing law. One that has actually been in place for many years and has not hampered our current culture of amateur or semi-professional competition using production vehicles in any way.
The new version of the law is not slated to go into effect until 2018 or later and it will not be retroactive. In other words, even if the law does pass as currently written, it will never apply to current racing modified production vehicles, only to those that are produced in 2018 or later and purchased with the sole intent of it being raced. Keep in mind, that is if the new version of the law passes.
What it comes down to is: currently it is illegal under federal law to remove the emissions control devices from any car sold to be driven on the street. This has been true long before EPA wrote the new proposal. However, it is not always strictly enforced and doesn’t seem like it will be strictly enforced if and when the new version of the law goes into effect.
Your race car is probably already illegal and so it seems that the EPA is not set on taking your race car away from you because it has illegal modifications now or in the future. After all when was the last time you saw an amateur or semi amateur race day being broken up by the Feds and cars impounded for having their emissions devices modified or removed.
Until such a day, happy racing my friends!