EPA’s War on… Stock Cars?
As Ronald Reagan might say, “there you go again.” Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations impact many aspects of our economy such as energy, manufacturing, agriculture, etc., and it seems the agency may now have our hobbies and pastimes in its crosshairs (See bottom of column on how to have your voice heard at the EPA).
Members of my legislative staff compile what we call our “Daily Legislative Memo.” This document, which is emailed to me, compiles information on any votes scheduled for that day, various pieces of constituent input, and several news items of note.
Over the last week or so, among pieces of constituent input were messages in support of the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act (H.R. 4715), which deals with a proposed regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that, according to the messages, proposes “to outlaw the conversion of street vehicles into race-only vehicles.”
Have they not heard of NASCAR and its history?
The beginning of NASCAR, as you may know, is closely connected to bootlegging. Some drivers would modify their cars to more effectively haul illicit whiskey made in Appalachia and better evade the police.
Drivers began hauling moonshine, using their oftentimes modified vehicles to avoid “revenuers,” those attempting to tax them. The cars were getting better and better and, eventually, races for pride and for profit began taking place featuring, as Jim Croce might sing, these “dirt track demons in their ’57 Chevrolets.”
Racing events, of course, remain quite popular in and around the Ninth District. You might be familiar with or have even attended races at nearby tracks such as Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, the Martinsville Speedway, the Bristol Motor Speedway, and what is now known as the Motor Mile Speedway in Dublin, etc.
For decades, street vehicles have been transformed into racecars used exclusively at the track.
Regrettably, the EPA doesn’t seem to share in the belief that converting a street vehicle into a racecar is an important part of American automotive culture.
The agency recently issued a proposed rule, the “Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles-Phase 2,” which would prohibit that practice from continuing. It would be illegal to convert a vehicle if its emission system is modified and taken out of compliance from its stock configuration.
Congress, though, didn’t intend for this to be so. While the Clean Air Act authorizes the EPA to regulate motor vehicles, “nonroad” vehicles such as the racecars NASCAR uses in events such as the Sprint Cup Series are exempt because their engines were not manufactured to be used on public roadways.
While NASCAR is exempt, not exempt would be the many amateurs and enthusiasts who “improve” on cars manufactured for street use, but which are only used on the racetrack. Further, the EPA’s position would prohibit both engine modifications and engine swaps if what results differs from the original emissions-certified configuration. This would be the case even if the vehicle would then be used solely for competition and never again on the street.
The Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act would block the EPA’s attempts to regulate modified motor vehicles used for racing. Accordingly, I am cosponsoring this bill as I believe this EPA rule would constitute a new regulation and would bypass the Congressional intent of the Clean Air Act.
This would not be the first time the EPA attempted to bypass Congressional intent of the Clean Air Act – former Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, who wrote the Clean Air Act, has said that he never anticipated that legislation would be used to regulate carbon dioxide, which the EPA is currently working to do.
The love of racing has spread from our region throughout the country, and has become a major sport and pastime for Americans from coast to coast. It would appear, unfortunately, it is not similarly loved in the alabaster halls of the eight buildings in Washington, D.C. that are occupied by the EPA.
The comment period on this EPA proposed rule has been reopened, and will close on April 1. Should you wish to make your voice heard on this matter, you may do so at the following link or by searching for “Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards: Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles Phase 2” on www.regulations.gov: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=EPA-HQ-OAR-2014-0827
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.