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Host of old car-related bills set to die when Congress adjourns

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Photo by Martin Falbisoner.

With just about a week left to go in the current Congressional session, a handful of bills ranging from ethanol reform to excluding competition vehicles from environmental regulations will likely expire before the end of the month.

The majority of the federal legislation proposed over the last two years that would have a sizeable impact on the old car hobby concerns the Renewable Fuel Standard and the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline – and all of it has sat in committees for months, if not for the entire term of the now-concluding session. Representative James Sensenbrenner’s H.R.21, which requests a comprehensive study on the effects of ethanol-blended fuels, hasn’t budged from the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology or from the Committee on Energy and Commerce since shortly after the resolution’s introduction in January of last year.

Representative Michael Burgess’s Leave Ethanol Volumes at Existing Levels Act, also introduced in January 2015, which would cap ethanol-blended fuels at E10, has remained in committee since then. Introduced not long after, Representative Bob Goodlatte’s RFS Reform Act of 2015, which would also cap ethanol-blended fuels at E10, has likewise sat in the Committee on Energy and Commerce since February of last year.

Though some lobbyists have recently campaigned for action on the Food and Fuel Consumer Protection Act of 2016, which Representative Bill Flores introduced in May of this year and which would effectively limit the nation’s fuel supply to 9.7 percent ethanol rather than use EPA-set volumetric requirements, it too has sat in the Committee on Energy and Commerce since introduction.

While the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2015 proposed by senators Dianne Feinstein and Pat Toomey – which called for the RFS to drop its requirement that a certain amount of the nation’s ethanol supply be produced from corn – failed after the two attempted to add it as a rider to other bills, both Feinstein and Toomey have introduced similar bills in prior sessions and are thus likely to do so again in the coming session next year. Senator Jeff Flake’s Phantom Fuel Reform Act, which would also eliminate corn as a source of ethanol, has sat in the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

In addition to the proposed ethanol legislation, Congress has also seen bills aimed at curtailing the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority over race cars. The SEMA-sponsored Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016 (H.R.4715 and S.2659), introduced in March, came about after the industry organization called attention to wording in a heavy truck emissions ruling draft that prohibited tampering with emissions equipment even on vehicles which “are used solely for competition.” The RPM Act, in turn, aimed to “exclude vehicles used solely for competition from certain provisions of the Clean Air Act” – that is, to formalize an informal competition exemption and to permanently put racecars out of the EPA’s reach. In August, the EPA omitted the objected-to wording in its final heavy truck ruling.

Finally, the Senate has also considered the National Historic Vehicle Register Act of 2016, which Senator Gary Peters introduced in September to establish the existing National Historic Vehicle Register under the Department of the Interior. It has since sat in the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Perhaps the only old car-related bill to become law over the latest Congressional session – the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2015, which loosens the rules for replica car builders – did so only as a rider on the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, a highway spending bill that was signed into law last December. A few different automakers – including DeLorean, Checker, and Cord – are set for revivals due to the provisions enacted in that law.

Both houses of Congress have indicated that they intend to remain in session until about December 16. The next session of Congress starts on or about January 3.