Pro-motorsports RPM Act fails to pass 117th Congress
The 117th Congress has adjourned without passing the motorsports-related RPM Act. What does that mean, exactly? Here’s a brief explainer of the legislation that many hoped would save America’s race cars.
According to the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) and its sister group, the Performance Racing Industry (PRI), all was once well when it came to the relationship between racing and the Environmental Protection Agency.
But then came 2015, when the EPA was under the leadership of Administrator Gina McCarthy, an appointee of President Obama.
That’s when the agency began interpreting the Clean Air Act as prohibiting a motor vehicle designed for street use—including a car, truck, or motorcycle—to be converted into a dedicated racer. “This American tradition was unquestioned from 1970 until 2015 when the EPA took the position that converted vehicles must remain emissions-compliant, even though they are no longer driven on public streets or highways,” said SEMA in a mission statement.
Now, five administrators later, that interpretation stands.
And an “interpretation” it remains. The EPA introduced a proposal in 2015 that would have tacitly banned racers’ ability to modify street vehicles into dedicated race cars—a practice that took place with no perceived or proven ill effects for 45 years since the Clean Air Act was introduced.
As part of a lawsuit in 2021, SEMA continued to fight the EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act.
“Although the EPA formally withdrew the proposal, the agency has since maintained that street vehicles cannot be converted into race cars, an assertion that has left the motorsports industry in a state of flux,” SEMA said.
Fearful that the EPA’s stance would no longer be an interpretation, but spelled out as law, SEMA and PRI have backed the RPM Act, which stands for Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports. The RPM Act is “a bipartisan bill which clarifies the motorsports-parts industry’s ability to sell products that enable racers to compete, and protects Americans’ right to convert street vehicles into dedicated race cars.”
All this pretext leads us to this: Despite strong support from the performance industry and racers themselves—as well as SEMA and PRI, which had NASCAR’s Richard Petty and NHRA racer Antron Brown make trips to Washington on behalf of the RPM Act—it didn’t make it to a vote in the 2021/2022 Congressional session.
“Key negotiators in Congress could not reach an agreement on bill language that balanced the need for federal law to protect racers and motorsports parts businesses from EPA enforcement with reasonable measures to ensure that race parts are not used on vehicles driven on roads and public highways,” SEMA explained.
Racers are essentially united in backing the RPM Act. “The EPA is overstepping its jurisdiction and penalizing small motorsports parts businesses,” said Richard Petty. “The RPM Act is essential to the racing industry and protecting the careers of young racers all over the country. During most of my racing career, my fellow NASCAR drivers and I competed in racecars that started out at as street-legal vehicles.”
“We wouldn’t have made it this far without this incredible effort by so many of our members,” SEMA President and CEO Mike Spagnola said last week. “The RPM Act was one of the most bipartisan bills in the 117th Congress with over 165 lawmakers cosponsoring the legislation. SEMA and PRI will leverage the momentum we built during this congressional session, assess the current challenges the industry faces, and chart a new path forward for the industry’s advocacy efforts at both the federal and state levels.”
It doesn’t sound like the bill is dead, but SEMA’s status update falls short of outlying a specific plan to re-introduce the RPM Act to the 118th Congress, which meets January 3, 2023 to January 3, 2025.
The legislation indeed has its share of support within Congress. “Growing up, I spent countless hours at the racetrack with my father,” said Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA), who originally introduced the bill in May of 2021. “Racing has always been close to my heart.”
Many Americans feel just the same.
Enforcing OEM emissions equipment (or certified alternatives) is a different matter. Getting hung up on that is embarrassing.
Grassroots racing could just go to aftermarket go cart bodies… re-using no longer road worthy vehicles is actually removing a need to produce new things (and keeps costs down).
Re-use comes ahead of recycle –something that seems lost on many in power or with vocal platform today.
Same logic has us snapping our fingers and being all EV in 7 or 13 years… no accounting for the pollution capital in the things we’d be throwing away early to do that.
This is a huge disappointment!
They had no problem passing the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill before bolting for the holidays.
Print more money, baby!
When bill language is not properly constructed, or leaves matter vague and ill-defined, ’twere better not to pass anything than to pass something that can end up in endless court battles of what it really or should mean, rather than what it actually says. The next Congress will have a chance to reconsider the bill, and the sponsor is prepared to submit it again.
Shocking that Congress which is actively working towards destroying everything we love didn’t want to touch this. /sarcasm
This is what happens with one party in charge who does not care to help actual Americans and keeps pushing climate change stuff into every bill they can. BTW, I am under no illusion that Republicans care any more beyond having political power. We need to stop re-electing people and hold people accountable.
My favorite bumper sticker: “Vote them all out.”
Okay…could this EPA regulation have been drafted because so many people have installed after market parts that fail to comply with clean air standards onto their street cars and trucks? I will admit that I have installed race equipment on street cars in the past. But I often see late model diesel pick ups on the street blowing massive amounts of black smoke in their wake. Many or perhaps all of these trucks have been refitted with aftermarket parts that are only intended for off road use. If this is what the regulations are actually trying to address, I get the point.
Does anyone really care about what you do with your race car that never sees street use? Will local race tracks enforce this EPA rule? I bet not.
the ruling bites those just taking the car out to a cruise occasionally and getting clapped with a summons. I have witnessed it.
I had an opportunity to witness the “interpretation” at a car cruise I regularly go to in NY this past season. This particular ones is very popular and draws roughly 400 cars every Wednesday night during the warmer months. Anyway, a lot of custom and converted racers show up. The ones driven were pulled over and issued summons’ for their mods, however the ones trailered were not. This put a damper on the entire season. These types of people that pass this legislation are hell bent on ending our Pursuit of Happiness, among other Liberties we enjoy. We should all write to our members in Congress to pass the RMP Act.
I tried to correct the acronym for the RPM act but was too late!
I had an opportunity to witness the “interpretation” at a car cruise I regularly go to in NY this past season. This particular ones is very popular and draws roughly 400 cars every Wednesday night during the warmer months. Anyway, a lot of custom and converted racers show up. The ones driven were pulled over and issued summons’ for their mods, however the ones trailered were not. This put a damper on the entire season. These types of people that pass this legislation are hell bent on ending our Pursuit of Happiness, among other Liberties we enjoy. We should all write to our members in Congress to pass the RPM Act.
No, I can’t imagine tracks enforcing this unless they can be held liable (The Man loves getting citizens to rat on each other) but I can clearly imagine the EPA swooping into an event with a fleet of ramp trucks and seizing everything.