Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the RPM Act?
A. The Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports (RPM) Act is common-sense, bi-partisan legislation that is being considered by Congress in 2021 to protect law-abiding citizens who convert their personal vehicles solely for use in racing competitions. It also protects citizens’ rights to purchase emissions-related parts intended to be installed on their racing vehicles. The RPM Act was first introduced in 2016 and the necessary steps for Congressional passage have been taken. Hearings have been held, there is widespread bi-partisan support, and the bill is well positioned to be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and signed into law in 2021. It is vital that you urge your member of Congress to support and pass the RPM Act.
Q. Why is this an issue now?
A. Congress never intended for the EPA to regulate race vehicles and parts. The issue first surfaced in 2015, 45 years after the Clean Air Act (CAA) became law. At that time, the EPA stated in a proposed rulemaking that once a motor vehicle (car, truck, motorcycle) has been certified as a street vehicle, it cannot be converted into a racing vehicle even if that vehicle is unlicensed, trailered to the track, and never driven on public road. Although the EPA withdrew the draft provision in 2016 following a huge public outcry, the agency still maintains that the CAA does not allow a motor vehicle to be converted into a racing vehicle used solely for competition. For the past five years, the motorsports industry has been left in a state of uncertainty and will remain in such a state until the RPM Act is passed.
Q. What is the Clean Air Act?
A. The CAA is a federal law enacted in 1970 to address air pollution from various sources, including from motor vehicles on streets and highways. Motor vehicles are certified to meet certain air pollution standards. The CAA prohibits the manufacture, distribution, sale or installation of parts or devices that will take a vehicle out of its certified configuration. For 45 years, the CAA’s anti-tampering provision applied only to motor vehicles driven on public roads, not to street vehicles converted into dedicated racecars.
Q. Didn’t the EPA withdraw their 2015 interpretation?
A. The EPA withdrew the 2015 draft provision that would have made it illegal to convert a street vehicle into a dedicated racecar. However, the agency still stands by the premise. In fact, the EPA included this interpretation in a 2021 lawsuit (Gearbox Z), once again stating that a street vehicle cannot be converted into a dedicated racing vehicle unless it remains in its emissions-certified configuration. SEMA challenged the EPA’s assertion by filing an amicus “friend of the court” brief. The court ultimately punted on the issue and pursued a decision on completely different grounds. Without the RPM Act, the EPA will continue to pursue such enforcement.
Q. If the EPA says it does not intend to enforce against racing enthusiasts, then why do you need legislation?
A. The RPM Act is vital to racers for several reasons. While the EPA is not currently enforcing against individual racers, the agency has stated in 2021 that it still reserves the right to pursue enforcement. The RPM Act will ensure that enforcement won’t happen. The RPM Act will also protect law-abiding companies that are manufacturing products that racers use. The uncertainty and confusion that exists without the RPM Act puts the entire motorsports community at risk.
Q. Does the RPM Act interfere with the EPA’s ability to do its job?
A. The RPM Act does not interfere with the EPA’s authority to enforce against companies selling defeat devices for highway vehicles.
Q. If the EPA changed direction and decided to enforce their rule, what would happen?
A. A pastime nearly as old as the automobile—converting street vehicles into dedicated racecars—would come to an end. Amateur and grassroots racers would not have an affordable way to get into the sport, racetracks would close, and race parts manufacturers, which are typically small, family-run businesses, would shut down. The industry employing more than one million Americans and accounting for $45 billion in retail sales would be devastated.
Q. What is the environmental impact of personal vehicles converted solely for use in racing competitions?
A. Racing has a minimal environmental impact. That’s why California, a progressive leader in environmental law and the state with the strictest vehicle emissions standards, exempts racing vehicles from regulation [Cal Health & Saf Code § 43001]. Dedicated race cars have little, if any, environmental impact.
Q. What authority does the EPA have to prosecute tampering—illegally modified street vehicles?
A. The CAA clearly states that manufacturing, selling, or installing parts that defeat or bypass emissions controls would constitute a violation of the CAA if racing-only products were installed on motor vehicles that are used on public highways. It has been the policy of EPA to prosecute these violations, subjecting offenders to fines excess of $4,800 per violation. SEMA supports this clear reading of the law and has worked with the EPA for many years to help prevent the sale of defeat devices.
Q. Will the RPM Act allow me to drive my racecar on the street or sell racing products for vehicles that will be driven on the street?
A. No. It is illegal to tamper with a vehicle’s emissions controls and drive it on the street. The RPM Act will not change that.
Q. How can the motorsports industry support the RPM Act and help get it passed into law?
A. Individuals can urge their legislators to support and pass the bill. Companies, organizations, and influencers can urge their customers, followers, and fans to support the bill and write their legislators. There is a simple form that individuals can fill out to write their legislators in support of the bill. It only takes a couple of minutes and is easy to do. Once the letter is sent, individuals should continue to follow the issue until the bill is passed. In some cases, letters may need to be sent to lawmakers again. Updates and information will be posted on sema.org/epa-news on how individuals can best help.