The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asserts that it has authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate highway vehicles modified into dedicated race vehicles and emissions-related parts used on those vehicles. Congressional action is the ONLY way to guarantee that street vehicles can be converted and parts can legally be sold for converted race vehicles.
1. What is the “Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports (RPM) Act”?
The RPM Act is a bill that will clarify that it is legal to modify a street vehicle into a racecar used exclusively at the track. If enacted into law, the bill will also confirm that it is legal to manufacture, distribute, sell, and install race parts used to convert street vehicles for exclusive track use. Under the RPM Act, legitimate race-parts businesses will not be subject to tampering penalties. The bill addresses any doubts regarding regulation of racecars and will provide certainty to the race parts industry.
2. Aren’t racecars already protected from being regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)?
Congress exempted race vehicles from regulation under the Clean Air Act in 1970. However, in 2015, the EPA issued a proposed rulemaking stating that it has always been illegal to convert a motor vehicle into a racecar if the vehicle’s emissions system no longer remains in its certified configuration. The agency alleges that the Clean Air Act exemption only applies to purpose-built race vehicles (NASCAR, Formula One, sprint cars, etc.). EPA is also claiming authority over any emissions-related parts produced, sold or installed on a converted motor vehicle, which takes it out-of-compliance.
3. Didn’t the EPA withdraw its proposed racing regulation from the final greenhouse gas rule?
The EPA removed the problematic racecar language from the final greenhouse gas rule for trucks and buses but has not changed its policy. The EPA still maintains that any individual who converts a street vehicle into a racecar used solely on the track, and any business that makes or supplies the parts and services for these racecars, has engaged in an illegal act of “tampering” if the emissions system is no longer compliant.
4. Which vehicles and parts are impacted by the EPA’s new interpretation of the law?
The EPA claims enforcement authority over any vehicle, including sports cars, sedans, motorcycles and trucks, that starts its life as a street vehicle or motorcycle if it was originally certified to federal emissions standards. Federal emissions standards have been effective since 1968, so the EPA’s prohibition covers motor vehicles dating back to that year (1978 for motorcycles). The EPA, however, is not claiming authority over purpose-built racecars like those used today in NASCAR, or “nonroad vehicles” (dirt bikes, ATVs, snowmobiles and boats) that are used exclusively for racing.
The EPA’s new interpretation covers any emissions-related component, which includes changes to engines, engine control modules, intakes, exhaust systems and more. The EPA may impose civil penalties of $4,454 per day, per violation.
5. Why is it important for Congress to pass this bill?
Racers and the motorsports-parts industry need certainty regarding how the Clean Air Act is applied, and Congress needs to confirm that it has ultimate authority. The RPM Act remains necessary to clarify the Clean Air Act, affirm Congress’ intent and ensure that racecars are exempt from EPA regulation now and in the future.
Converting a vehicle into a dedicated racecar is a key part of American heritage and provides jobs to thousands of hard-working Americans. Until 2015, it was a practice unquestioned by enthusiasts, industry and regulators.
6. What is the impact on the racing industry if Congress doesn’t act?
The EPA’s interpretation that the Clean Air Act does not permit racers to modify the emissions system of a motor vehicle for the purpose of converting it into a race vehicle has caused confusion throughout the racing community and has stifled investments in the industry. Racers competing in modified vehicles could be fined if the EPA decided to take a more aggressive approach to enforcement. Further, this interpretation would have a devastating impact on motorsports since many types of racing rely on vehicles that started their life on a production line.
Until the RPM Act becomes law, Motorsports-parts businesses will continue to face the threat of EPA enforcement for manufacturing, selling, and distributing emissions-related race parts. Regulators have targeted manufacturers, distributors and retailers under current Clean Air Act authority. Installers may be the next target. Even if the EPA doesn’t go after individual racers, products may begin to disappear from the supply chain. Legitimate racing products may no longer be developed and sold, and businesses may no longer be willing to modify vehicles.
The RPM Act is needed to provide certainty to racers and the industry that supplies the products used in motorsports. The specialty equipment automotive aftermarket employs about one million Americans across all 50 states. Current retail sales of racing products make up a $2 billion annual market.