"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."
The true purpose of the now-abandoned proposal is still unclear. Back in February, an EPA spokesperson told Road & Track that the proposed change sought to clarify the language of existing law, not to create new legislation or extend the EPA's reach to previously-unregulated areas of the auto industry.
As the EPA told us, "the Clean Air Act has–since its inception–specifically prohibited tampering with or defeating the emission control systems on those vehicles.The proposed regulation that SEMA has commented on does not change this long-standing law, or approach."
In a further statement to R&T, a spokesperson further detailed that the proposed language was not meant to extend the EPA's ability to enforce (emphasis added).
This clarification does not affect EPA's enforcement authority. It is still illegal to tamper with or defeat the emission control systems of motor vehicles. In the course of selecting cases for enforcement, the EPA has and will continue to consider whether the tampered vehicle is used exclusively for competition. The EPA remains primarily concerned with cases where the tampered vehicle is used on public roads, and more specifically with aftermarket manufacturers who sell devices that defeat emission control systems on vehicles used on public roads.
That reasoning didn't convince SEMA, nor did it explain the EPA's method in attempting to enact the proposal: The language pertaining to race-modified street vehicles was included seemingly at random within a huge proposal having to do with cutting emissions from heavy- and medium-duty trucks. Nowhere else in the 629-page proposal was amateur racing discussed.
After the EPA proposal was made public by SEMA, a bipartisan coalition of five members of Congress championed 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."
This week, Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee joined the effort, sending a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asking her to clarify the legal justification for the EPA's proposal to rule on amateur motorsports.
Apparently, the groundswell of grassroots opposition from SEMA, coupled with Congressional pressure, was enough to convince the EPA to abandon the proposal. 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."
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