LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
By Steve McDonald
Law and Order
2014: The Year in Review
The laws and regulations that govern how SEMA members do business have a continuous impact on the way automotive specialty-equipment products are made, distributed and marketed. The charge of the SEMA government affairs office is to stay on top of relevant state and federal legislation and regulations and advocate industry positions to ensure the best possible outcome for the membership. The following are just a few examples of critical legislative/regulatory successes that the SEMA government affairs team was involved in this year.
Arizona Emissions Inspections: In 2011, Arizona enacted a law to exempt all vehicles manufactured in model-year ’74 and earlier from the state’s mandatory biennial emissions inspection program. However, regulators must first update the state’s air-quality plan and demonstrate that the exemption will not impact Arizona’s compliance with clean-air requirements. The EPA must then approve the updated plan. The state has indicated to SEMA that it intends to submit a revised air-quality plan to the EPA by early 2015. The EPA will then have another 18 months to approve or reject the changes. In the meantime, the current exemptions for pre-’67 vehicles and “collectibles” remain in effect. To qualify for the “collectible” exemption, a vehicle must be maintained primarily for use in club activities, exhibitions, parades or other functions of public interest and have a collectible vehicle or classic automobile insurance policy restricting use. The collectible exemption also requires that the owner own a secondary vehicle for general transportation.
California Collector Car Appreciation Day: State Senator Tom Berryhill and Assembly member Franklin E. Bigelow issued a joint member resolution recognizing July 11, 2014, as Collector Car Appreciation Day. The resolution was designed to “draw special public attention to the importance of the collection and restoration of historic and classic cars to the preservation of our nation’s cultural heritage.”
California (Madera County) Collector Car Appreciation Day: The Board of Supervisors of the County of Madera, California, issued a proclamation declaring July 11, 2014, Collector Car Appreciation Day. In doing so, the county “recognizes that the collection and restoration of historic and classic cars is important to preserving our cultural heritage.”
Colorado Collector Cars: Legislation that originally repealed the six-year limitation for applying a salvage brand to a motor vehicle for which the cost of being repaired exceeded its value was signed into law by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. A SEMA-supported amendment to the new law protects from the salvage brand all vehicles that qualify as collector’s items, horseless carriages or street rods at the time of damage. This amendment prevents a permanent “salvage” blemish on the vehicle’s title, which would have made it suspect even if the vehicle is expertly restored or modified.
Delaware Reconstructed Vehicles: SEMA-supported legislation to exempt reconstructed vehicles that are more than 25 years old from emissions testing was signed into law by Governor Jack Markell. In Delaware, “reconstructed vehicle” means a “vehicle which has been assembled or constructed largely by means of essential parts, new or used, derived from other vehicles or makes of vehicles of various names, models and types, or which, if originally otherwise constructed, has been materially altered by the removal of essential parts or by the addition or substitution of essential parts, new or used, derived from other vehicles or makes of vehicles.” Under the new law, the vehicle must continue to meet and be inspected for safety and anti-tampering requirements for its model year. Vehicles exempt from emissions testing can be used only for participation in club activities, exhibits, tours, parades and similar uses but not for general transportation or more than 1,000 miles per year.
Hawaii Exhaust Systems: SEMA-opposed legislation that would have required official inspection stations to test vehicles to determine if their exhaust systems “emit noise noticeably greater than that emitted by the vehicle as equipped from the factory” died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The bill had not been given committee consideration. The bill unfairly provided no objective standard by which vehicles could be tested and did not provide inspection stations with decibel readings on factory-installed exhaust systems.
Illinois Ethanol: Legislation reintroduced in 2014 that would have allowed the state to provide information to gas stations encouraging the stations to offer E15 as an option for customers died as the legislature adjourned for the year. The bill also would have allowed state agencies to provide information to gas stations on any financial assistance that may be available to subsidize the cost of providing E15 blended fuel to consumers.
Kansas Inoperable Vehicles: With strong opposition from SEMA, legislation that would have provided counties with the authority to remove from private property motor vehicles deemed to be a “nuisance” died when the legislature adjourned for the year. In Kansas, maintaining a public nuisance means “intentionally causing or permitting a condition to exist which injures or endangers the public health, safety or welfare.” This definition provides no real guidance for motor-vehicle owners maintaining inoperable vehicles on private property.
Louisiana Collector Car Appreciation Day: Governor Bobby Jindal signed into law a bill to designate the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the second weekend in July each year as Louisiana Collector Car Appreciation weekend.
Maryland Registration Surcharge: Legislation authorizing a county or municipality to impose an annual surcharge for the registration of a motor vehicle was considered by a Senate committee but died when the legislature adjourned. The bill, opposed by SEMA, provided for a surcharge of up to $20 per year. The measure made no special exception for hobby cars such as street rods and historic vehicles that constitute a small portion of the vehicle fleet, are infrequently operated and are deserving of lower taxes and fees.
Maryland Tires: SEMA-opposed legislation that would have prohibited the sale of tires manufactured more than three years before the date of sale died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The bill also required dealers to provide a notice and disclosure to consumers relating to tire age and safety.
Maryland Historic Vehicles: SEMA-opposed legislation to increase the age requirement for vehicles eligible for registration as “historic motor vehicles” was not approved. Under the bill, the age requirement would have been raised from 20 to at least 25 years old, require that a historic vehicle be insured under a policy for a historic vehicle, a show vehicle or an antique and require that the owner have a “daily driver” vehicle registered in Maryland.
Massachusetts Vehicle Miles Traveled: Legislation to establish a pilot program to impose a vehicle mileage user fee was heard in committee but died when the legislature adjourned. The bill was intended to supplement the gas tax and implement alternative ways to raise transportation revenue for the state. The pilot program would have included at least 1,000 drivers of trucks, passenger and commercial vehicles. The drivers would have onboard equipment installed on their vehicles that would report the number of miles traveled. Payments would be collected from participants. As gas tax revenues decrease due to a more fuel-efficient fleet of vehicles, states are looking for new sources of funding for pet projects.
Massachusetts Tires: A bill to provide for a certificate of rejection to be issued to any vehicle with light truck or passenger tires (including any full-service spare) greater than six years of age was considered by the Joint Transportation Committee but died at the conclusion of the legislative session.
Massachusetts Exhaust Noise: The Joint Transportation Committee heard testimony on a bill that would ban the “use and sale of any exhaust pipe that increases the sound emissions of any vehicle, including motorcycles” but took no action, thereby allowing the bill to die. This measure, opposed by SEMA, supplied law enforcement with a clear standard to enforce only for motorcycles but would have allowed them to make subjective judgments on whether a modified exhaust system on any passenger vehicle or truck was in violation.
Michigan Historic Military Vehicles: Legislation to exempt historic military vehicles from the requirement that they display a license plate unless the vehicle was originally manufactured with lighting and mounting provisions for a plate was signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder. Under the law, if the plate is not attached to the exterior of the historic military vehicle, it must be present in the vehicle and available upon demand by law enforcement officers.
Michigan Automotive Heritage: The Michigan Senate adopted a resolution commemorating August 2014 as “Automotive Heritage Month” in the state.
Michigan Exhaust Noise: Working with the legislature, SEMA decided to abandon a plan to offer a compromise to overly restrictive exhaust noise legislation. The measure originally sought to prohibit motor-vehicle repair facilities from modifying an exhaust system to “produce noise in excess of OEM stock decibel levels.” The bill carried a fine of $10,000 for each violation. The parties determined that there was insufficient time in the legislative session to gain a consensus among industry and hobbyist stakeholders that would enable a compromise to be enacted into law. This action essentially killed the bill for 2014.
Minnesota Mileage User Fee: Legislation that would have established a pilot program administered by the state to impose a vehicle mileage user fee died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The bill sought to penalize national efforts to create a more fuel-efficient vehicle fleet by taxing drivers based on vehicle mileage. As gas tax revenues decrease due to hybrid and electric vehicle ownership, states are looking for new sources of funding for pet projects.
Minnesota Classic Cars: Legislation to provide for a program that will allow classic-car status to be determined from nationally recognized standards and guides was signed into law by Governor Mark Dayton. Under the current system, this status must be designated by the state through a time-consuming amendment to the law. The classic-car plate is available for “any motor vehicle manufactured between and including the years 1925 and 1948, and designated as a full classic car because of its fine design, high engineering standards, and superior workmanship, and owned and operated solely as a collector’s item….” The new law will speed up the process by which Minnesota vehicles can attain classic-car status.
Nebraska Automobile Museums: A SEMA-supported bill to exempt purchases made by historic automobile museums from sales and use taxes was signed into law by Governor Dave Heineman. Under the new law, a historic automobile museum is “a museum that is used to maintain and exhibit a collection of at least two hundred motor vehicles and was open to the public an average of four or more hours per week during the previous calendar year.” The law exempts these museums from sales and use taxes on the gross receipts from the sale, lease or rental of items that are displayed or held for display and are related to the general purpose of the museum.
Nebraska Headlamps: A SEMA-opposed bill to require headlamps to be “clear or of a white color” died when the legislature adjourned for the year. SEMA had urged the bill sponsor to amend the bill to conform to the federal lighting standard. Under that standard, it is possible to design a headlamp that emits a light that is perceived as having a blue tint but that nevertheless remains within the boundaries that define “white.”
Nevada (Las Vegas) Collector Car Appreciation Day: For the third consecutive year, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman and the Las Vegas City Council issued a proclamation declaring Collector Car Appreciation Day in the city.
New Hampshire Year-of-Manufacture Plates: Legislation to expand the range of vehicles eligible to use original year-of-manufacture license plates on antique motor vehicles was signed into law by Governor Maggie Hassan. Under previous law, only ’60-and-earlier model-year antique vehicles were eligible to use the plates. Under the new law, eligibility would be expanded to include all ’75-and-earlier model years.
New Mexico Collector Car Appreciation Day: As she has done for the past two years, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez issued a proclamation designating July 12, 2014, as Collector Car Appreciation Day in the state.
New York Wheels: SEMA-opposed legislation to require vehicle identification numbers on the wheels of motor vehicles assembled or sold in New York died as the legislature adjourned for the year. All wheels sold in the United States generally comply with industry standards, which include markings with the wheel manufacturer’s name, trademark or symbol, date of manufacture and manufacturer’s part number or code. Wheels are already identifiable without imposing a VIN marking burden. Both the U.S. Congress and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have determined that wheel marking of the type contemplated by this bill would impose a huge burden on the wheel makers, automakers and dealers.
North Carolina Headlamps: A provision in legislation to impose a $100 fine on any person who equipped a car with headlamps that “change the original design” was stricken from the bill. The provision bill directly conflicted with federal law, which makes clear that the standards adopted by the NHTSA for required motor vehicle equipment (including headlamps) are to be performance standards, not design standards.
Ohio Headlamps: Legislation that originally required headlights on motor vehicles to display a “white light” without defining the term was signed into law by Governor John Kasich. A SEMA amendment that was included in the new law now conforms the legislation to NHTSA standards regarding headlamp color, with which all headlamps destined for on-road use must comply. Under the federal standards, it is possible to design a headlamp that can be perceived as having a blue tint but that nevertheless remains within the federal boundaries that define “white.”
Ohio Historical Vehicles: SEMA-supported legislation to amend the state’s law defining historical motor vehicles to permit their use on public roads to and from a location where maintenance is performed was signed into law by Governor John Kasich. The new law allows motorists the opportunity to have their historical vehicles serviced or repaired without the threat of being cited by law enforcement for violation of the motor vehicle code.
Rhode Island Replica License Plates: A bill to authorize the state to issue replica year-of-manufacture plates for antique vehicles was signed into law by Governor Lincoln Chafee. In Rhode Island, an antique motor car is “any motor vehicle which is more than 25 years old. Unless fully inspected and meeting inspection requirements, the vehicle may be maintained solely for use in exhibitions, club activities, parades, and other functions of public interest and may not be used primarily for the transportation of passengers or goods over any public highway.”
South Carolina Registration Fees: Legislation to increase biennial registration fees for motor vehicles died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The bill would have increased the registration fees for private passenger vehicles from $24 to $36 for persons under age 65. For persons 65 years old and older, the fees for private passenger vehicles would have risen from $20 to $32.
South Carolina Headlamps: SEMA-opposed legislation that would have permitted “blue-colored” headlamps only if they had been installed by the motor vehicle manufacturer died as the legislature adjourned for the year. The sponsor had been urged to amend the measure to conform to NHTSA headlamp standards.
Tennessee Antique Vehicles: Legislation to allow counties to exempt owners of antique motor vehicles from the privilege tax was signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam. Under the new law, the county may also require only a one-time payment of the tax. According to the state, the average amount of the one-time tax imposed would be $43.10. In Tennessee, an antique motor vehicle is “a motor vehicle over 25 years old with a nonmodified engine and body that is used for participation in, or transportation to and from, club activities, exhibits, tours, parades, and similar uses as a collector’s item; on the highways for the purpose of selling, testing the operation of, or obtaining repairs to or maintenance; and for general transportation only on Saturday and Sunday.”
Texas Street Rods/Custom Vehicles: In response to comments from SEMA on a proposal by the DMV, Texas regulations have been amended to remove a provision disallowing the titling of vehicles without “a body, motor, and frame manufactured by a motor vehicle manufacturer.” Under the amended regulations, such vehicles may be registered using the street rod and custom vehicle law passed by the state’s legislature in 2011. The 2011 law, a product of SEMA-model legislation, provides that vehicles that are made to resemble older vehicles but that have been altered from the older vehicle’s original manufacturer’s designs or constructed from non-original materials may be titled as street rods and custom vehicles. Prior to the amendments to the regulation, the state did not allow the titling of vehicles that were built from the “ground up” with new materials that were not manufactured by a recognized car manufacturer. The regulatory change ensures that vehicles without an original manufacturer body, motor and frame can be titled under the street rod and custom vehicle law going forward. The DMV also indicated that vehicles constructed with original steel bodies and frames will no longer be erroneously branded “replicas.”
Vermont Exhaust Systems: A SEMA-opposed bill to ban motor vehicle exhaust systems that increase noise levels died when the legislature adjourned for the year. Under the bill, violators would not have passed the state’s required inspection and would have been subject to fines of up to $350. The bill did not provide an opportunity for vehicle hobbyists to install and use aftermarket modified exhaust systems that meet an objective decibel limit under a fair and predictable test. Instead, the bill would have allowed inspectors to make subjective judgments on whether an exhaust system amplified the noise emitted by the motor vehicle.
Virginia Exhaust Systems: A SEMA-supported bill to allow antique vehicle hobbyists to install and use aftermarket exhaust systems was held over to the 2015 legislative session by the Senate Transportation Committee. The bill had already been approved by the House of Delegates.
Virginia Road Usage Fee: SEMA-opposed legislation to impose a $64 annual road usage fee on any motor vehicle that has a combined city/highway fuel-economy rating equal to or greater than 40 miles per gallon died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The fee would be in lieu of uncollected gas taxes for the most fuel-efficient vehicles.
Washington Collectible Vehicles: A bill, supported by SEMA, to exempt collectible vehicles of any age from emissions testing was approved by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee. The new law defines a collectible vehicle as “a vehicle of unique or rare design, of limited production, and an object of curiosity that is maintained primarily for use in car club activities, exhibitions, parades, or other functions of public interest or for a private collection, and is used only infrequently for other purposes.” The law requires that the vehicle have collectible vehicle or classic automobile insurance coverage that restricts the collectible vehicle mileage, use or both and requires the owner to have another vehicle for personal use.
Wisconsin Historical Plates: A bill to allow the display of one or two historical registration plates from or representing the model year of the vehicle on collector vehicles manufactured before ’79 was signed into law by Governor Scott Walker. Under the law, the plates can be used if the vehicle is being operated to or from a car show or parade and any current registration plate issued for the vehicle is carried in the vehicle.
Canada (British Columbia) Collector Car Appreciation Day: The province of British Columbia issued a proclamation designating July 12, 2014, as Collector Car Appreciation Day. The province also proclaimed the month of July 2014 to be Collector Car Appreciation Month.
Canada (Manitoba) Collector Car Appreciation Day: Thanks to the efforts of the Manitoba Association of Auto Clubs, the Manitoba Minister of Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection issued a proclamation designating July 11, 2014, as Collector Car Appreciation Day in the province.
Canada (Nova Scotia) Collector Car Appreciation Day: Thanks to the efforts of the National Association of Automobile Clubs of Canada, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil issued a proclamation designating July 2014 as Automotive Heritage Month in the province.
Collector Car Appreciation Day: At SEMA’s request, U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mark Begich (D-AK) co-sponsored Senate Resolution 493 designating July 11, 2014, as Collector Car Appreciation Day. It marked the fifth commemoration in what has become an annual event to raise awareness of the vital role automotive restoration and collection plays in American society. SEMA-member companies, car clubs and individuals helped organize scores of events to celebrate the day, including car shows, small-business open houses and “drive your car to work” displays. Next year’s event is scheduled for July 10, 2015.
Health Care Law: The Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare,” requires employers with 50 or more full-time workers to offer health care insurance or be subject to a $2,000 penalty for each full-time worker (minus the first 30 full-time employees). The “play or pay” mandate took effect on January 1, 2014, but will not be enforced until 2015. For businesses with 50–99 employees, the deadline for offering health care coverage was extended to January 1, 2016. Large businesses with 100 or more employees are required to offer health insurance on January 1, 2015.
Tax Reform: Leaders of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee released the Tax Reform Act of 2014, a comprehensive set of recommendations for simplifying the corporate and individual tax codes. The proposals stem from a series of bipartisan workshops held in 2013 with stakeholders, academics and the general public. Recommendations include a top corporate tax rate of 25% to be phased in over five years, a permanent research and development (R&D) tax credit, continued enhanced Section 179 expensing for small businesses and a repeal of “last in, first out” for transition rules. The proposals are viewed as a starting point for meaningful action in 2015.
Expired Tax Credits: The U.S. Congress is considering legislation to address temporary tax provisions that expired in 2013, with debates on how to fund the measures and whether they should be made permanent rather than year-to-year credits. Before the end of 2014, Congress was expected to pass at least a two-year renewal of the R&D tax credit, an extension of the 50% bonus depreciation for qualified property purchased before January 1, 2016, and a one-year restoration of Section 179 expensing at the maximum $500,000 deduction, with a $2 million phase-out level.
“Employee Rights” Poster: The National Labor Relations Board rule instructing employers to display an 11x17-in. poster informing workers of their right to unionize and bargain collectively was overturned by two federal courts. Scheduled to take effect in 2011, the rule was widely opposed by business groups, including SEMA, over concerns that it unfairly promoted unionization.
Patent Trolls: The U.S. House of Representatives approved a SEMA-supported bill to address patent troll litigation. At issue are frivolous lawsuits asserting patent infringement. The entity making the assertion is usually seeking licensing fees for a common technology or business practice rather than for an actual product or service. The lawsuits have exploded in recent years, costing small and large businesses billions of dollars. Many companies settle rather than fight the suits, allowing the patent trolls to secure funds to pursue other parties.
Bonneville Salt Flats: The year 2014 marked the 100-year anniversary for land speed racing at Bonneville.
Celebrations included a display of historic race vehicles at the Grand National Roadster Show and publication of the Bonneville: A Century of Speed, which garnered well over $50,000 in book sale donations for salt replenishment activities. SEMA has joined with the Save the Salt Foundation and a number of other organizations and companies to fundraise and coordinate the salt laydown activities. Funds contributed will be used to replenish the salt flats beyond the current salt brine pumping program that resulted in more than 300,000 tons of salt being restored to Bonneville in the last year. Over the summer, about 2,000 tons of dry salt was directly deposited at the end of the access road to Bonneville. The coalition has submitted an environmental assessment to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management seeking approval to pursue future direct dry salt repairs of the various race tracks.
Johnson Valley, California: In 2013, SEMA worked with a number of other off-highway vehicle (OHV) groups and lawmakers to help resolve a six-year dispute over access to 189,000 acres of southern California desert. The U.S. Congress passed a law in 2013 to create a 96,000-acre “Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area.” The area hosts the famous King of the Hammers race. Twice a year, the U.S. Marine Corps will have limited access to part of the OHV area for military training exercises. In 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a SEMA-supported bill to include the word “National” within the Johnson Valley title to distinguish it as the nation’s first federal OHV area.
Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications: The NHTSA plans to require installation of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technology in new cars by as early as model-year 2020. A wireless chip would allow connected cars to communicate over a special wireless frequency called dedicated short-range communications (DSRC). The DSRC technology would transmit location, speed and direction data 10 times per second. Computers in the cars would be able to respond to an impending crash by sending an alert to the driver (flashing message, audible warning, rumbling seat or steering wheel). The NHTSA intends to create a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard to establish minimum performance requirements for V2V devices and messages. The NHTSA estimates that the wireless transmitters and software could cost around $350 per vehicle. Older cars could be voluntarily retrofitted with the chips.
Tire Aging: The NHTSA does not intend to issue a federal safety standard based on tire age. The agency noted that tires have become more robust in recent years as a result of the increased performance mandates required under a 2000 law called the TREAD Act. The NHTSA also credited mandatory tire-pressure monitoring systems installed on newer vehicles as having helped alert motorists when tires are underinflated.
Tire Identification Numbers: The NHTSA has proposed two changes for the tire identification number (TIN) that appears on all new and retreaded motor vehicle tires sold in the United States. The TIN helps consumers and industry members identify tires when they are subject to recall. The NHTSA would expand the two-symbol code from two to three, since the NHTSA is running out of two-symbol codes for identifying specific tire plants. The agency would also standardize the length of the TIN at 13 symbols for new tires and seven symbols for retreaded tires.
ESC System Effectiveness: The NHTSA issued a technical report evaluating the effectiveness of electronic stability control (ESC) systems in reducing crash-related fatalities involving light duty vehicles weighing less than 10,000 lbs. ESC systems assist the driver by triggering computer-controlled braking of individual wheels when the system senses that there is a loss of vehicle control. The systems were required to be installed on all new light-duty vehicles by 2011. According to the NHTSA, ESC systems have helped reduce fatal rollovers by 60% in cars and 74% in light trucks and fatal single-vehicle crashes by 31% in cars and 45% in light trucks.
Early Warning Reports: Manufacturers must now submit all recall reports and associated documents electronically through a NHTSA website. The “early warning” system information may provide clues to potential future safety problems. Most of the direct reporting requirements are limited to large-volume vehicle manufacturers (more than 5,000 vehicles annually), large-volume tire manufacturers (more than 15,000 tires of the same size and design annually) and child-restraint system manufacturers. Reports include information about injuries, property damage, consumer complaints, warranty claims, field reports and production data for every calendar quarter. Equipment manufacturers are not required to supply early warning materials, but reporting is triggered under two circumstances: an incident or allegation involving a death or when the company issues recall notices, advisories or customer-satisfaction campaigns referencing a defect, failure or malfunction, whether or not such defect is safety-related.
Commercial Trucking Logbooks: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a proposed rule that would require interstate truck and bus drivers to switch to electronic logs rather than fill out paperwork when tracking hours of operation. Electronic logs are intended to reduce paperwork burdens and make it more difficult to misrepresent logbook time.
Tier 3 Emissions Rules: The EPA issued tougher tailpipe and evaporative emissions standards known as “Tier 3.” The rule applies to new light-duty vehicles, medium-duty passenger cars and some heavy-duty vehicles. Reduced tailpipe emissions standards for particulate matter, non-methane organic gases and nitrogen oxides will be phased in between 2017 and 2025, and the useful-life period will be raised from 120,000 miles to 150,000 miles. The evaporative emissions standards will also be reduced by nearly 50% from current standards and the useful-life period raised to 150,000 miles. Tier 3 will lower the sulfur content in gasoline by more than 60%.
Greenhouse Gases: In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas element, was a pollutant under the Clean Air Act and that the EPA had a duty to regulate the gas. The EPA subsequently issued new tailpipe emissions standards to reduce carbon emissions by establishing greenhouse gas levels tied to increases in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. In 2014, the court went one step further and ruled that the EPA also has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases from stationary sources. The EPA is developing a program that would be limited to the very largest stationary source emitters, such as refineries, steel mills, chemical and cement plants.
Truck Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards: The NHTSA and the EPA intend to strengthen the fuel-economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. A specific proposal is expected in 2015 for model-year ’19 and later trucks. The new standards will take advantage of available technological innovations such as engine and powertrain efficiency improvements, aerodynamics, weight reduction, improved tire rolling resistance, hybridization and automatic engine shutdown.
HFC-134a Air Conditioning Refrigerant: The EPA is seeking to ban the use of HFC-134a as a motor vehicle air conditioning system refrigerant starting with model-year ’21 new vehicles. The EPA has also proposed a ban on the use of SP34E, R-416A and several other refrigerants as of model-year ’17. Although the refrigerants were approved for use years ago, other chemicals have now been identified by the EPA as being more environmentally friendly substitutes to chlorofluorocarbons that deplete the ozone layer.
National Monument Designations: The U.S. House of Representatives passed a SEMA-supported bill to require a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) study for any national monument designations more than 5,000 acres. The bill was sent to the Senate for consideration. Currently, the president has the unilateral authority to declare a parcel of public land with “historic or scientific interest” to be a national monument. Such a designation frequently leads to road closures for motorized recreation. The bill would place limits on that authority. The president could declare a monument of less than 5,000 acres, but that declaration would need Congressional approval within three years. A larger parcel of land would require a National Environmental Policy Act environmental study along with a Congressional study estimating long-term costs to manage the land. The president would also be limited to one declaration per state during any presidential term unless there was Congressional approval.
Endangered Species Act (ESA): The U.S. House of Representatives passed an Endangered Species Act (ESA) reform bill. It would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to release data used to make listings of threatened or endangered animals and plants, require that state data be included in the calculations when making such determinations, report how much money is spent on ESA-related lawsuits and place reasonable caps on attorney fees. The bill was sent to the Senate for consideration.
OHV Use at Cape Lookout, North Carolina: The National Park Service issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement for managing off-highway vehicle (OHV) activity at Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina. The National Park Service is considering four alternatives for managing OHVs along with a fifth alternative that prohibits OHV activity altogether. The National Park Service supports an alternative to designate specific OHV routes and areas, establish a permit program that would maintain OHV use at historical levels, phase out high-performance sport model and two-stroke ATVs and UTVs with seasonal use restrictions, and establish seasonal night-driving restrictions.
Ethanol: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledged that a 2007 federal law sets unrealistic mandates on the amount of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requires that an increasing amount of biofuel be blended into gasoline each year, from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022. However, nearly all gasoline sold in the United States contains up to 10% ethanol (E10) and there is widespread opposition to increasing that amount to 15% (E15) in order to meet the RFS mandates. For the first time since the RFS became law in 2009, the EPA is lowering the targeted amount of ethanol blended into gasoline. SEMA has joined with a number of other organizations representing a variety of industries in asking Congress to reform the RFS biofuel mandates and ban the sale of E15. While the EPA has approved E15 for use in ’01 and newer vehicles, the agency has made it illegal to use in older vehicles for fear of equipment damage. However, the EPA requires only a gas pump warning label for unsuspecting consumers. Congress is expected to consider legislation to reduce ethanol mandates in late 2014 or 2015.
Back-Up Cameras: The NHTSA has directed automakers to install rearview camera systems by 2018 on all new vehicles weighing less than 10,000 lbs. The equipment is intended to prevent accidents by alerting drivers when pedestrians are behind the vehicles. The new rule was required under a law passed in 2008. While the law permitted sensors, mirrors or other devices to provide drivers with rearward information, the NHTSA determined that a camera and dashboard display screen system was the best solution, with a 10-x20-ft. field of view. The rule will be phased in between 2016 and 2018.
New Mexico National Monument: President Obama designated the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area in southern New Mexico as a national monument. At nearly 500,000 acres, it is more than twice as big as the president’s previous largest designation, the 243,000-acre Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico. While the action does not immediately close any roads, it prohibits new roads or trails for motorized vehicles.