Politics and Racing–Taking a Stand Against Regulatory Overreach

“We’re from the government and we’re here to help.” While that statement is usually placed somewhere in the context of a joke or a sarcastic rendering, it sometimes can be true. Such is the case with the flurry of activity that took place last year, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its 629 pages of proposed rules for fuel economy standards. Embedded in the rules package was an unannounced proviso that was interpreted to make it illegal to convert vehicles originally built for on-road use into racecars. Further, the rule was interpreted to prohibit the sale of certain aftermarket emissions-related parts on these racecars. Taken in its entirety, the proposed rule was viewed by many as an act of overreach by the EPA, with the potential outcome of regulating competitive racing in the U.S., especially at the hobbyist level.

Specialty Equipment Market Association Takes a Stand

sema-logoThe Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) is a trade association consisting of a diverse group of manufacturers, distributors, retailers, publishing companies, auto restorers, street rod builders, restylers, car clubs, race teams and more. As such, their antennae picked up on the potential interpretation of the EPA ruling and sounded the alarm, raising the awareness of many organizations and fans countrywide of what could happen through enactment of this type of ruling. SEMA’s position, as articulated on their website, was:  “The regulation would impact all vehicle types, including the sports cars, sedans and hatch-backs commonly converted strictly for use at the track. While the Clean Air Act prohibits certain modifications to motor vehicles, it is clear that vehicles built or modified for racing, and not used on the streets, are not the “motor vehicles” that Congress intended to regulate.”

SEMA officials subsequently met with EPA representatives to obtain a verification that the rule would in fact prohibit conversion of vehicles into racecars and make the sale of certain emissions-related parts for use on converted vehicles illegal. With that verification in hand, the organization set about building opposition to the proposal, working with a host of affected organizations and government officials, resulting in introduction of The Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016 (RPM Act) earlier this year. The Act, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives as H.R. 4715 and in the U.S. Senate as S. 2659, seeks to confirm that racecars are not subject to EPA regulation and to further confirm that modifying street vehicles for exclusively on-track competition is not a violation of EPA rules… While the EPA subsequently withdrew the rule,  the agency has made clear that it believes it has the authority to regulate competitive racing cars.

Because of this, SEMA continues its efforts to clarify the matter by pursuing passage of the RPM Act.” H.R. 4715 was originally co-sponsored by U.S. Representatives Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Richard Hudson (R-NC), Bill Posey (R-FL) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY), while S. 2659 was originally co-sponsored by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. Shelley Capito (R-WV), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV). In fact, to date RPM Act has 117 cosponsors in the House and 27 in the Senate. Both bills have been introduced and referred to committee, where they now reside.

While the two RPM Act bills wend their way through channels, SEMA is advocating that motorsports enthusiasts join the movement to guarantee that street vehicles can continue to be modified for the track by contacting their governmental representatives and encouraging them to move these proposals into law. A “take action” link has been established to facilitate this outreach effort, and can be accessed here. Take a look at this one-minute YouTube video explaining SEMA’s position on the RPM Act of 2016:


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