SEMA Rallies Businesses and Enthusiasts to Save Racing

SEMA News—May 2016

FROM THE HILL

By Eric Snyder

SEMA Rallies Businesses and Enthusiasts to Save Racing

Legislation Will Overturn Threat to Modified Race Cars and Parts Suppliers

  SEMA Rallies Businesses
SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting (right) speaks with U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL, left) and Ralph Sheheen (center), managing partner and president of National Speed Sport News, after testifying before the U.S. House Science Committee’s Oversight panel.
   

If you ask average Americans what they love about auto racing, you’ll find a striking similarity in the responses: speed, teamwork and passion. Since the invention of the automobile, Americans have been converting their street vehicles into race cars. Powered by this passion, most professional motorsports leagues, including NASCAR, were founded on that concept. More than a century later, the very core of this tradition is under attack.

Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed regulation to make the act of converting a motor vehicle into a race car illegal if the emissions system is taken out of compliance from its stock configuration. This prohibition would include even those vehicles used solely at the track and never again used on public roads. If finalized, the rule would effectively prohibit the sale of certain emissions-related parts for use on converted vehicles.

SEMA Rallies Businesses
Chris Kersting (left) testifies before the U.S. House Science Committee’s Oversight panel in support of the RPM Act.
 
   

The EPA’s proposed regulation would affect any racing vehicle that started its life as a street car or motorcycle if it was originally certified to federal emissions standards. At the core of the issue is the Clean Air Act. The EPA’s prohibition would cover all motor vehicles dating back to 1968, the year the law first took effect. The ban would not, however, impact purpose-built race cars such as those used today in NASCAR, nor would it apply to “non-road vehicles,” such as dirt bikes, ATVs or snowmobiles used exclusively for racing.

“This proposed regulation represents overreaching by the agency, runs contrary to the law and defies decades of racing activity where EPA has acknowledged and allowed conversion of vehicles,” said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting, who testified on the issue in March before the House Science Oversight Subcommittee. “Congress did not intend the original Clean Air Act to extend to vehicles modified for racing and has reinforced that intent on more than one occasion.”

SEMA Rallies BusinessesSEMA Rallies Businesses
U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) (Left) sponsored the RPM Act in the House of Representatives and testified in support of the bill at the House Science Subcommittee hearing. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) (Right) is the Senate RPM Act sponsor. Sen. Burr is also the Co-Chair of the Senate Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus.
   

SEMA PAC President’s Club Spotlight: Lance Stander

 
SEMA Rallies Businesses
Lance Stander (left) of Hillbank Motor Corporation recently hosted U.S. Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) at his headquarters in Irvine, California.
 

Lance Stander is the CEO of Hillbank Motor Corp., which is headquartered in Irvine, California. Hillbank is a supplier for a wide range of replica vehicles, concept cars, body kits, performance parts and accessories. Thanks to the recently enacted Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act, small-volume automakers like Hillbank are now allowed to make up to 325 turn-key vehicles per year that resemble classic cars originally produced at least 25 years ago.

“We’ve always known that the key to expanding our manufacturing and sales markets was to be able to deliver our replica vehicles as turn-key to our customers,” Stander said. “It would have been impossible to achieve this if not for the help of SEMA PAC’s voice being heard on Capitol Hill. This will bring much-needed manufacturing back into the U.S.A.”

For more information on SEMA PAC, contact SEMA PAC and Congressional Relations Manager Christian Robinson at 202-783-6007 x20 or christianr@sema.org.

 

SEMA filed comments vigorously challenging the EPA’s proposal last December. As a result, racers and enthusiasts were quick to react. Within 24 hours, SEMA created a White House petition demanding that the EPA remove its proposal. The petition gained the 100,000 signatures needed to receive a response from the administration.

Because of this outcry, SEMA’s allies in Congress were quick to act. In early March, the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016 (RPM Act; H.R. 4715/S. 2659) was introduced in both the House and Senate by U.S. Representatives Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Richard Hudson (R-NC), Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and Bill Posey (R-FL), as well as U.S. Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Dean Heller (R-NV) and Thom Tillis (R-NC). The bill ensures that those modifying race vehicles are not subject to tampering fines and penalties.

“The EPA has placed onerous regulations on nearly every aspect of our economy—from energy production to agriculture—and now they are coming after Americans’ hobbies,” said Congressman McHenry. “For years, my constituents have been free to modify vehicles for competitive use on closed tracks without government interference. The RPM Act will ensure that continues by blocking this EPA overreach.”

Tens of thousands of motorsports participants and vehicle owners, both amateur and professional, race at the 1,300 racetracks operating across America. The bill is also critically important to the companies that comprise the specialty automotive industry. Retail sales of racing products make up a $1.4 billion annual market.

“For decades, congresses and previous administrations have made it clear that the EPA does not have the authority to regulate racing vehicles, but that hasn’t stopped the EPA from trying,” said Senator Burr.

SEMA continues to build support for the legislation among its membership, racing enthusiast groups, allied associations and race-track ownership. To get involved, please contact SEMA’s Congressional Affairs Manager Eric Snyder via e-mail at esnyder@sema.org or by phone at 202-783-6007 x39.

What is the “Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016” (RPM Act)?

SEMA Rallies BusinessesThe RPM Act simply confirms that, under the Clean Air Act, it has always been legal to modify a street vehicle or motorcycle into a race vehicle used exclusively at the track.

Aren’t race cars already protected from EPA regulations?

Congress has always prohibited the EPA from regulating race cars, which are excluded from the Clean Air Act’s definition of “motor vehicle.” In July 2015, the EPA issued a proposed rule acknowledging the race car exemption but “clarifying” that it has always been illegal to convert emissions-certified vehicles into race cars. The EPA contends this is “tampering” and that a vehicle is forever a “motor vehicle” subject to the Clean Air Act, even if it is unregistered and never again driven on the highway. This proposal conflicts with Congressional intent and decades of market-place application.

The RPM Act simply confirms that, under the Clean Air Act, it has always been legal to modify a street vehicle or motorcycle into a race vehicle used exclusively at the track.

Aren’t race cars already protected from EPA regulations?

Congress has always prohibited the EPA from regulating race cars, which are excluded from the Clean Air Act’s definition of “motor vehicle.” In July 2015, the EPA issued a proposed rule acknowledging the race car exemption but “clarifying” that it has always been illegal to convert emissions-certified vehicles into race cars. The EPA contends this is “tampering” and that a vehicle is forever a “motor vehicle” subject to the Clean Air Act, even if it is unregistered and never again driven on the highway. This proposal conflicts with Congressional intent and decades of market-place application.

Why wasn’t there more public outcry before now?

The proposed regulation was inserted into a 629-page unrelated greenhouse-gas rulemaking for trucks and buses issued last July. The EPA failed to alert the public that the race car provision was included. There were no public comments on the provision until SEMA discovered it and then submitted comments on December 28, 2015.

When is the final rule scheduled to come out?

The rule is scheduled to be finalized by July 2016.

Which Americans are affected by this rule?

The EPA’s proposed regulation would affect Americans with any vehicle, including sports cars, sedans and hatchbacks, that started life as a street car or motorcycle and was originally certified to federal emissions standards. Federal emissions standards first took effect in 1968, so the EPA’s prohibition would cover all motor vehicles dating back to that year. The regulation could make it illegal to sell emissions-related racing products for those cars, and installers might refuse to work on the vehicles for fear of civil penalties.

What is the rule’s economic impact on the racing industry?

The automotive specialty-equipment aftermarket employs about one million Americans across all 50 states. Current retail sales of racing products make up a $1.4 billion annual market.

How does the RPM Act of 2016 address the problem?

While Congress has already prohibited the EPA from regulating race cars, the RPM Act will erase any doubts that the exemption applies to racing parts and vehicle modifications.

Why is it important for Congress to pass this bill?

The public and the regulated industry need certainty regarding how the Clean Air Act is applied, and Congress needs to confirm that it has ultimate authority. Passage of the RPM Act will end the debate and protect our nation’s racing industry and pastime.

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