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New bill aims to place competition vehicles out of EPA’s reach

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Photo by Steve Berry.

Claiming that the Environmental Protection Agency’s pending race car ruling poses a restriction on personal freedom, four Congressmen this week introduced a bill intended to thwart the EPA’s oversight on competition vehicles by specifically excluding them from the Clean Air Act.

House Resolution 4715, also known as the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016, specifically aims to remove race cars from the Clean Air Act’s definition of “motor vehicle” and to exclude “any vehicle used solely for competition” from the Clean Air Act’s anti-tampering provision.

“At the time the Clean Air Act was written, and each time the Clean Air Act has been amended, the intent of Congress has been, and continues to be, that vehicles manufactured for, modified for, or utilized in organized motorized racing events would not be encompassed by the Clean Air Act’s definition of ‘motor vehicle,'” according to the text of the bill, co-sponsored by four representatives: Richard Hudson of North Carolina, Lee Zeldin of New York, Bill Posey of Florida, and Henry Cuellar of Texas.

The text of the bill also claims that the EPA has acted “despite the clear intent of Congress” and “has exceeded its statutory authority in its recent actions to regulate vehicles used solely for competition.”

As part of a 629-page EPA/NHTSA proposal to regulate CO2 emissions and fuel consumption in medium- and heavy-duty trucks, introduced last July, the EPA stated that all motor vehicles must keep their emissions equipment intact “even if they are used solely for competition.” In response, the Specialty Equipment Market Association released a press release last month claiming the EPA intends to outlaw the conversion of street cars into race cars.

The EPA responded with a statement of its own, claiming that the Clean Air Act never explicitly made an exemption for racecars and that the agency had no intention of banning motorsports with the ruling. Indeed, the existing law that the EPA seeks to clarify, 40 CFR Section 86.1854-12(a)(3), prohibits anybody from removing, disabling, or bypassing emissions equipment on a motor vehicle, including its owner. Nowhere in that section does it make an exemption for competition use.

But Steve McDonald, SEMA’s vice president for government affairs, said that during the discussions that led up to the passage of the Clean Air Act, conversations on the public record indicated that competition vehicles were not to be covered by the Act.

“Those discussions were not insignificant,” McDonald said. “We’re contending that the EPA’s proposal was a clear departure from what the law means.”

The Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016, introduced on Monday, has been assigned to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. All four co-sponsors of the bill have previously criticized the EPA for overreach and have introduced or sponsored legislation aimed at curtailing the agency’s powers.

An EPA spokesperson declined to comment on the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016, noting that the agency doesn’t comment on pending legislation. The EPA did, however, re-open the proposed regulation to public comments on March 1. Comments on the rule are due by April 1.

The EPA’s proposed regulation is slated for adoption this coming July.