SEMA News—January 2013
LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
By Steve McDonald
Law and Order
California Legacy Plates: Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation to establish the California Legacy License Plate Program. Under the new law, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will create and issue a series of specialized license plates that replicate plates from the state’s past. Previously, classic-car owners could revive only well-maintained old plates that matched the vintage of their vehicles. Among other things, the new law will bring a retro look to modern license plates by allowing consumers to choose from one of three classic designs from the ’50s–’60s (black lettering on yellow background or yellow lettering on black background) and ’70s–’80s (yellow lettering on blue background). The law requires that at least 7,500 applications for any one particular plate must be received by the DMV by January 1, 2015.
California Tire Pressure: All California automobile service providers are required to check tire pressure for every vehicle weighing less than 10,000 lbs. being repaired at their facilities. The law applies to auto maintenance/repair providers but not to auto parts distributors/retailers, auto body/paint facilities, auto glass installers or wreckers/dismantlers. California enacted into law a bill that removes tire age as a reason to deny checking a vehicle’s tire pressure. The new law recognizes that there is no national tire-aging standard and referencing tire age in a California regulation creates liability exposure to the service and repair industry. The service provider still has the right to refuse to check the pressure if the tire is unsafe or damaged.
California Electronic Key: In 2007, California began requiring car manufacturers to give electronic-key replacement information to registered locksmiths so lost electronic keys could be replaced 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To allow manufacturers adequate time to comply, a six-year exception was made for manufacturers that provide a replacement key overnight. Legislation to permanently exempt certain vehicle manufacturers from the requirement to provide locksmiths with electronic-key code information was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown. The bill would also have made permanent the requirement that exempted manufacturers operate a request line whereby owners could obtain a replacement key within one day of the request or via overnight delivery from the manufacturer. The governor claimed that the 24/7 standard for car key replacement should apply uniformly to all manufacturers.
California Self-Driving Cars: California legislation to allow driverless cars to be operated on public roads for testing purposes, provided that each vehicle has a fully licensed and bonded operator in the driver’s seat to take control if necessary, was signed into law. With the goal of eventually permitting autonomous vehicles to be driven on California roadways, the bill instructs the DMV to adopt regulations that govern the licensing, bonding, testing and operation of such vehicles. The bill also instructs the DMV to adopt the new regulations as soon as practicable but no later than January 1, 2015.
Pennsylvania Emissions Inspection: SEMA-supported legislation to provide a 10-year emissions inspection exemption for vehicles never before registered in Pennsylvania or any other jurisdiction was approved by the Senate. The bill now moves to the House Transportation Committee. Current law exempts only new vehicles that have fewer than 5,000 miles on their odometers for one year after their first registration. The bill acknowledges that it is senseless to test newer vehicles, the results of which demonstrate no significant air-quality benefits. The idea behind exempting any class of vehicles is to reduce costs while not losing appreciable emissions reductions. This strategy builds support for emissions inspection programs but also directs finite resources to where they will be most valuable in cleaning the air. The measure still requires that the newest 10 model-year vehicles be subject to visual anti-tampering inspections for the presence of emissions control components installed on the vehicles by manufacturers.
“Green” Advertising: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) updated its “Green Guides,” which are intended to help marketers avoid misleading environmental claims. The guides were first issued in 1992 but had not been revised since 1998. The guides cover general principles that apply to all environmental marketing claims, consumer perception of claims and marketing substantiation of claims, and avoiding consumer deception. Marketing studies have found that most consumers think a “green” product is recyclable, biodegradable, made from recycled materials or made with renewable materials. Since very few products have all of these attributes, the FTC’s guide revisions are intended to clarify and limit the claims. The revised guides include new sections on renewable materials claims, “green” certifications and seals of approval, non-toxic claims, renewable energy claims and carbon offsets. They also clarify existing categories, such as recyclable and ozone-safe.
Flame Retardant Chemical Rules: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to increase the regulation of flame-retardant chemicals known as polybrominated diphenylether (PBDEs) that are added to plastics and many other materials. PBDEs decrease the likelihood of fires and, once started, slow the chemical reactions that drive oxygen-dependent fires. PBDEs are found in polystyrene, polyurethane foam, wire insulation and a variety of products, including automotive carpets and fabrics and electronic circuit boards. The EPA is proposing to effectively phase out decabromodiphenyl Ether (decaBDE) by December 2013. The EPA would also regulate six other chemicals, including octabromodiphenyl ether (octaBDE) and pentabromodiphenyl ether (pentaBDE), under the Toxic Substances Control Act’s Significant New Use Rule. This means companies that process the chemicals after 2013 would be required to notify the EPA and be subject to EPA approval at least 90 days in advance of producing a new product and, for octaBDE, pentaBDE and decaBDE, conduct health and environmental tests. The EPA has expressed concern that these PBDEs may pose liver, thyroid or other human health risks. Although many of the chemicals are no longer manufactured in the United States, they still appear in imported products or materials used to produce the goods. As of 2006, California already prohibits the manufacture, distribution and processing of octaBDE and pentaBDE.