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EPA removes racecar language from greenhouse gas regulation, says its position on motorsports hasn’t changed

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All in the same statement released on Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency promised to rescind contentious language that motorsports enthusiasts say targeted them, reiterated that removing emissions equipment remains illegal, and said that they’re not going to crack down on individual racers.

“EPA supports motorsports and its contributions to the American economy and communities all across the country,” the agency wrote in a statement on its website. “EPA’s focus is not on vehicles built or used exclusively for racing, but on companies that don’t play by the rules and that make and sell products that disable pollution controls on motor vehicles used on public roads. These unlawful defeat devices pump dangerous and illegal pollution into the air we breathe.”

The language at the heart of the controversy, which the EPA described as “clarifying” and inserted into regulations concerning greenhouse gas emissions from medium- and heavy-duty trucks last year, prohibited the removal or alteration of factory-equipped emission control devices “even if they are used solely for competition.” The agency said it had simply intended to draw a distinction between “nonroad vehicles” and “certified motor vehicles” with that language.

Specialty Equipment Market Association officials, however, saw the language as a regulatory overreach intended to outlaw conversions of street vehicles into racecars. In response, they began to lobby against the language by sending out a series of press releases to auto enthusiast media, starting a WeThePeople petition to get the White House to intervene against the EPA, and testifying against the language before a Congressional committee.

Several state attorneys general have spoken out against the language over the several weeks, and as Automotive News reported, a group of Congressmen on the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy earlier last week asking her for legal justification for the language.

In its statement on Friday, the EPA noted simply that it will remove the proposed language from the greenhouse gas regulation due to the confusion that it created. “The proposed language… was never intended to represent any change in the law or in EPA’s policies or practices towards dedicated competition vehicles,” the agency wrote.

As an EPA spokesperson noted in February, the agency had always considered it illegal to tamper with emissions equipment on certified motor vehicles, regardless of intended use, and that the Clean Air Act never made an explicit exemption for competition vehicles.

Chris Kersting, president and CEO of SEMA, which represents the $36 billion aftermarket industry, said in a Friday press release that the withdrawal of the language from the EPA regulation doesn’t adequately safeguard competition vehicles from EPA regulations.

“Confusion reigns: The agency continues to assert newfound authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate modification of vehicles for use in competition,” he wrote. “This means that those converting and racing competition vehicles, and the parts and services industries that support them, do so under new EPA policy that considers the activity illegal.”

He then reiterated SEMA’s support for the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016, introduced in the House of Representatives as H.R. 4715 and in the Senate as S. 2659. Both bills remain in committee.

The EPA’s proposed medium- and heavy-duty greenhouse gas regulations remain slated for adoption in July.