THE CLEAN AIR ACT AND YOU
If you didn’t know before, you know now, within the last year the EPA has started to heavily enforce the Clean Air Act. This means removing emissions systems, something that has always been federally illegal, is now being enforced harder than ever before. Doesn’t matter what your local municipality says, whether they enforce it or not, removing emissions devices is and always has been federally illegal. We have gotten away from this old “smoke is power” or “smoke is cool” mentality, which has been great to see. So many guys are making gobs of power on the track with very little smoke. That’s impressive. We need to continue this trend. Plus in the end, who really wants to have a massive sign pointing at you after you’ve left the stop light with a full head of steam? That’s just asking for trouble. I’d personally rather hot rod around town without calling attention to myself.
This recent change is going to affect the diesel performance industry. I used to live in California. I had a heavily modified truck that was built before CA started to smog diesels. When that changed, I was turning wrenches at a truck shop, I saw the industry go through the change. We got used to it pretty quickly and the change just became part of normal life there. Going through that makes me extremely confident that we as an industry and enthusiast group as a whole, will get through this very quickly. It’s not going to end diesel performance, not even close. Don’t pay any attention to those who say otherwise. Gassers went through this in the late 70’s and 80’s, look at that industry today, we’ve got 840hp production cars. It’ll be hard for many, that’s for sure, but we as an industry and enthusiast group will get through this just fine I’m certain.
What I’m about to go into next will mostly be for diesel industry professionals, but we all can take some good info from it. Recently I was able to sit in on a seminar hosted by SEMA, with the topic being emissions compliance and how it affects the automotive performance industry as a whole. In that seminar we heard from several people the most important to this conversation being Evan Belser, the Associate Director of the Air Enforcement Division for the EPA and Jeremiah Bearden, the Vehicle Enforcement Section Manager for CARB (California Air Resource Board). The two discussed separately what their divisions of the government do and they explained what they are currently looking for as far as emissions compliance enforcement goes. They shared some interesting statistics; 13% of all diesel vehicles originally equipped with DPF/ Egr/etc are deleted; these deleted vehicles are equivalent to adding 9-million diesel trucks worth of emissions to the planet (their words); this recent bump in enforcement stemmed from individual states complaints; among other stats. What really interested me was what exactly they’re looking for and why. It helped explain a lot of the scuttlebutt we’ve been hearing lately.
Mr. Belser’s explanations for the EPA were fairly cut and dry, and there weren’t too many things they were concerned with. He did state: all can be found in the Clean Air Act.
Closed course racing vehicles are exempt from the Clean Air Act, saying a vehicle is for off road use only does not make a vehicle exempt as off road or AG is still covered by emissions rules. However, the EPA is currently concentrating on emissions delete devices for on-road vehicles only. Belser did say that eventually that directive will change and emissions delete devices for other vehicles will be under the spotlight, when that would happen he did not say.
Vehicles with production dates prior to 1965 are exempt from the act.
The act applies to overseas companies selling to the US as well.
The EPA does not go after the end users, only the manufacturers and those selling the parts. Belser noted that this is somewhat based on numbers, meaning if you sold only a few then that could actually be for closed course racing vehicles, which is fine. But if you sold 500, well that’s obviously not solely for closed course racing vehicles and the company would then be subject to fines, etc..
Overall modification is not illegal, but obtaining a “E.O. number” from the EPA is not something that currently exists. If you’re concerned with getting in trouble for a part you manufacture in the future, get it tested by a third party. Make sure it’s not emitting more than the vehicle is allowed to. SEMA Garage can help here. In the end whether the part is in violation is decided by the agent.
The California Air Resource Board was a different story. CARB is going after just about anyone that sells devices without an Exemption Order given to them by the state. This covers just about anything that impacts emissions.
Currently, vehicles originally intended for onroad use can be turned into closed course racing vehicles. And any vehicle with a build date prior to 1976 is exempt (diesels prior to 1998 are exempt). Others are exempt as well, see CARB’S website for more.
CARB recommends serializing parts that might violate CA laws. This way if you sold a non E.O. equipped part to someone out of CA, and the part makes its way into CA, you can prove that you did not in fact sell it in the state.
What an inspector tells you while you’re being investigated might not be what ends up happening in the end. The Judge’s ruling is the final word.
All that being said, over the last year I have seen many things happen that go against what was said in this meeting. I’ve seen friend’s companies get in trouble for selling things while another down the street was told they were ok to sell. I would assume everyone in the industry has seen this same thing. I can’t currently say for sure why, but the more stories I hear, more of what I heard in that seminar makes sense. I think the grey area is going away and we can all move forward towards the future. In the end, don’t roll coal, keep the emissions devices on (the technology is here, you can get a reliable 600 RWHP with a DPF, I promise), and just use common sense.