Law and Order
SEMA News—November 2012
LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
By Steve McDonald
Law and Order
California Legacy Plates: SEMA-supported legislation to establish the California Legacy License Plate Program was approved by the California legislature and now moves to the governor for his signature and enactment into law. Under the bill, the Department of Motor Vehicles would create and issue a series of specialized license plates that replicate plates from the state’s past. Currently, classic-car owners can revive only well-maintained old plates that match the vintage of their vehicles. If enacted, the bill would bring a retro look to modern license plates by allowing consumers to choose from one of three classic designs from the ’50s and ’60s (black lettering on yellow background or yellow lettering on black background) or ’70s and ’80s (yellow lettering on blue background). The measure would require that at least 7,500 applications for any one particular plate must be received by the Department of Motor Vehicles on or before January 1, 2015.
California Scrappage: Legislation that would have restricted eligibility for the state’s motor-vehicle scrappage program to the highest-polluting vehicles, with priority given to vehicles registered in air basins that are out of compliance with federal air-quality standards, died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The scrappage provisions had been removed from the bill prior to adjournment. Among other things, the original version of the bill recognized that the state couldn’t afford to continue operating a wide-open program to scrap older cars, which actually does little to offset emissions.
California Specially Constructed Vehicles: The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is in the process of concluding an engine certification process applicable to specially constructed vehicles (SCVs). The program originated in a report released in draft form by the agency in October 2011. Recent and substantial amendments have resulted in a program that closely resembles what is required of the original-equipment manufacturers for new engine certification. SEMA believes that the current format will not be economically feasible for small-company engine builders and recommended the use of engines from certified vehicles for present and future SCVs. SEMA staff submitted comments to the program with recommendations for allowances that still support the use of engines with reduced emissions, coupled with an opportunity for SCV engine builders to use performance parts that have been CARB certified.
SEMA Action Network (SAN): The SAN Driving Force newsletter again took home the gold medallion in the “Best Single Issue: Newsletter” category of the 21st International Automotive Media Awards. The International Automotive Media Competition, a function of the International Society for Vehicle Preservation, is a peer-judged awards program that recognizes excellence in all forms of automotive media. As the leader in legislative advocacy on behalf of the automotive hobby, the SAN relies upon Driving Force to reach thousands of enthusiasts regarding government activity in the states and in Washington, D.C. This recognition is a testament to its continued effectiveness in providing enthusiasts with the information they need to help effect pro-hobby governmental policies.
E15 Ethanol: A federal appeals court dismissed on technicalities a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to permit 15% ethanol (E15) content in gasoline for ’01 and newer model-year cars and light trucks. The EPA has previously limited ethanol content to 10% (E10) for these vehicles. The EPA made it “illegal” to put E15 in pre-’01 vehicles but is relying on a gas pump label cautioning motorists not to misfuel their older vehicles. SEMA opposes E15 based on scientific evidence that it causes corrosion with incompatible parts. In light of the court’s decision, SEMA is now seeking passage of federal legislation that would prevent the EPA from permitting E15 sales until the National Academies has conducted a study on how E15 may impact gas-powered vehicles. The bill has been approved by the U.S. House Science Committee and is pending on the House floor.
Bonneville Salt Flats: The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved a final Environmental Assessment (EA) for replenishing salt to the Bonneville Salt Flats (BSF) as potash is mined on adjoining lands. The BLM adopted the approach recommended by SEMA and other organizations that are members of the “Save the Salt Coalition.” The EA requires a permanent replenishment program that guarantees the same quantity and quality of salt be returned to the BSF as is removed under an existing potash-mining lease agreement. The mining company, Intrepid Potash–Wendover LLC has already exceeded the EA requirements, pumping nearly 1 million tons of salt onto the BSF over the past two years without removing any salt from the same area. SEMA and the coalition are now pursuing a public fundraising campaign to go beyond “replenishment” so that the BSF can be “restored” with millions of tons of additional salt necessary to achieve the goal. All contributions will be used to purchase salt and/or the equipment necessary to pump, transport and lay down the salt.
“Save Johnson Valley": In comments submitted to the BLM, SEMA recommended that the U.S. Marines Corps secure special-use permits when conducting troop maneuvers within Johnson Valley, California, rather than taking ownership of the land as part of an expanded Twentynine Palms base. The land is a designated off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation area and site of “King of the Hammers” and other OHV events throughout the year. The Marines need access to Johnson Valley for less than two months a year but are seeking ownership rights from the BLM for 56% of the land (147,000 acres). The Marines would permit limited access to less than 40,000 acres of that land for OHV activities during 10 months of the year. Any land transfer requires congressional approval. SEMA favors a shared-use compromise in which the BLM retains land ownership. Congress is in the process of enacting legislation that will require the Marines to study alternative ways to share the land with the OHV community, such as with special permits. The Johnson Valley off-road area draws at least 200,000 visitors annually and may generate as much as $191 million annually into the economy.
CAFE Standards: The federal government issued final regulations implementing an agreement reached with auto industry representatives and California regulators on fuel economy and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions limits for model-year ’17–’25 vehicles. The fleetwide average will rise from 34.5 miles per gallon (mpg) at the end of 2016 to 54.5 mpg for model-year ’25, a nearly 5% annual increase, with slightly lower standards for light-duty trucks. The agreement preserves California’s authority to regulate CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases while creating a single national standard. CO2 emissions and fuel economy are linked, since carbon dioxide is a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion. The automakers pursued an agreement to increase fuel economy that would also preserve affordability, vehicle choice, jobs and safety.
Feds Update Motorcycle Brake Standard: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has updated the performance test standards for motorcycle brakes, first adopted in 1972. The requirements are part of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 122, Motorcycle Brake Systems, which applies to both two-wheeled and three-wheeled motorcycles. The revised rule includes a more-stringent dry brake measure and new high-speed, wet-brake and heat-fade tests. The rule specifies minimum performance requirements for antilock brake systems when they are voluntarily installed on motorcycles. The revised rule also harmonizes the U.S. standard with a global technical regulation developed in 1998.