Automakers Join Chorus Against EPA Race Car Provision

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By Anthony Adragna

April 5 — An obscure provision in proposed truck emissions standards would mark a significant departure by the Environmental Protection Agency from its treatment of non-road vehicles under the Clean Air Act and deprive consumers of property rights by barring legitimate activities, automobile manufacturers said in comments to the agency.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, whose members include Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co., and the Association of Global Automakers, whose members include Honda Motor Co. and Toyota, proposed clarifying language to the EPA's greenhouse gas emissions standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks to ensure that modifying a vehicle to be used solely in competition did not constitute tampering with emissions controls under the Clean Air Act.

“Thousands of vehicles sold annually are legitimately converted to competition or off-roading vehicles,” the groups wrote. “EPA’s proposed rule would, with the stroke of a pen, prohibit these legitimate activities and suddenly deprive all vehicle owners of their right to convert an emissions-certified vehicle into a legitimate non-emissions-certified vehicle, and will suddenly deprive manufacturers and sellers the right to sell those owners the components they need for such vehicle uses.”

The EPA, along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reopened the public comment period on their efforts to set combined greenhouse gas emissions and corporate average fuel economy standards (RIN 2060-AS16; RIN 2127-AL52) for model year 2021 through 2027 tractors and model year 2018 through 2027 trailers after the initial uproar from the sports racing industry .

That public comment period closed April 1. According to the agencies, the regulations will be finalized by August.

Trade Group Raised Alarm

The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), which represents manufacturers and retailers of specialty parts for automobiles, first drew attention to the inclusion of the provision in the broader proposed rule.

According to the group, the proposed rule would revise 40 C.F.R., Part 86 to require vehicles maintain pollution control equipment in their certified configuration, including previously exempted vehicles intended solely for non-road competitions. The EPA has said it is merely clarifying its long-standing interpretation of the Clean Air Act.

Congress has since gotten involved in the dispute, introducing House and Senate bills (H.R. 4715; S. 2659) to clarify that race cars are exempt from anti-tampering provisions in the Clean Air Act and held a contentious hearing on the issue .

In supplemental comments, SEMA said the provision's inclusion occurred without adequate notice, was not in accord with the Clean Air Act and remains unnecessary for the agency's goal of enforcing against the sale of illegal “defeat devices.”

‘Contradicts' Agency Policy

“This [provision] contradicts long-standing agency policy, which has for decades recognized that vehicles that are used solely for competition are excluded from the EPA’s regulations under the Clean Air Act because they no longer meet the definition of ‘motor vehicle,' ” the group wrote. “SEMA respectfully requests the EPA withdraw the proposed regulations prohibiting the conversion of motor vehicles into vehicles to be used solely for competition.”

The comments requested the agency provide guidance to businesses on how to comply with existing policies. Other entities raising similar concerns about the provision include the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association and BorgWarner Inc., an automotive parts supplier.

Defenders of Rule

Some groups did back EPA's inclusion of the language in the proposed rule. The Manufacturers of Emission Controls Association, for example, said some vehicles might be tampered with “under the guise” they will only be used for racing while they remain active on roadways.

“Without an active [inspection and maintenance] program there is no way to insure that these devices are not being misapplied to vehicles that may occasionally operate on public roads,” the group wrote in comments. “Many of these purchases occur over the internet so there is no way to insure that the vehicle that is being tampered is used solely for the purpose of racing competition and never driven on public roads.”

The Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, an association of air quality agencies in the Northeast, said the proposed changes were consistent with the Clean Air Act and did not appear to change any agency priorities.

“EPA can and has consistently exercised its enforcement discretion by targeting manufacturers of defeat devices that sell their illegal products to vehicle owners who continue to drive their cars on public roads,” the group wrote. “The agency has not indicated any intention of expanding its enforcement effort to competition car owners or hobbyists.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony Adragna in Washington at aadragna@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

All the comments on the proposed rule are available at http://www.regulations.gov at docket No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2014-0827.