SEMA Federal Legislative Priorities: 2013
Low-Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturing: SEMA supports legislation that would enable low volume car manufacturers to provide a range of specialty vehicles for customers nationwide. The “Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act” directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a regulatory structure covering limited-production vehicles (1,000 or fewer vehicles a year). The U.S. currently has just one system for regulating cars, which is designed for companies that mass-produce millions of cars. The low volume bill addresses the unique circumstances associated with limited production custom vehicles, which include replica street rods, customs and sports cars. These cars are primarily used in exhibitions, parades and occasional transportation. Vehicles included in this new program would meet current emissions standards by allowing a low volume producer to install an EPA-certified clean engine produced by another company. The vehicles could also incorporate alternative energy technology, encouraging green companies to build low-emission cars. SEMA is working to build a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers to co-sponsor and support this important job-creating legislation.
Collector Car Appreciation Day: At the request of SEMA and its SEMA Action Network (SAN), U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Richard Burr (R-NC) co-sponsored Senate Resolution 452 designating July 13, 2012 as the Third Annual “Collector Car Appreciation Day.” To celebrate, enthusiasts across the country gathered to recognize the value in collecting and restoring historic and classic cars. With SEMA/SAN’s support, car clubs, enthusiast organizations, and affiliated businesses hosted more than 200 events in more than 40 states to commemorate the day. Events ranged from car cruises to small-business open houses and product giveaways. SEMA/SNA plans to partner with Senator Tester and Senator Burr again to introduce a similar resolution designating July 12, 2013 as the fourth annual national “Collector Car Appreciation Day.”
Ethanol Content in Gasoline: A federal appeals court has dismissed on technicalities a lawsuit that challenged the EPA’s authority to permit the sale of 15% ethanol (E15) content in gasoline for 2001 and newer model year cars and light trucks. Ethanol absorbs water, which leads to the creation of formic acid and corrosion of metals, plastics and rubber. SEMA continues to oppose the sale of E15 gasoline since many older cars were not constructed with materials to counteract ethanol’s harmful effects. The problem is compounded when a car is not driven much (ex: collector cars) and the ethanol sits in the fuel system. E15 can also burn hotter than E10 gasoline and cause damage to certain high-performance specialty parts. The EPA does not allow E15 fuel in pre-2001 and older cars, motorcycles and other motor motorized equipment. However, the EPA is only requiring a gas pump warning label instructing unsuspecting consumers that it is “illegal” to fill-up those products with E15. SEMA has joined with a number of other trade associations in seeking to enact legislation to repeal the E15 rule.
Renewable Fuel Standard: A federal law known as the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) mandates an increasing amount of biofuels be blended into gasoline each year. This has been the driving force for E15 and the EPA now wants to consider blending E30 as part of the upcoming Tier 3 standards. SEMA is working with a diverse coalition of organizations opposed to the RFS mandates, from the auto/boat industries to petroleum, food and environmental community. The message: set more realistic RFS goals and rescind the E15 rule.
Bonneville Salt Flats: The Bonneville Salt Flats (BSF) is a national treasure and unique resource of international significance central to the history of motorsports. Since the first speed record attempts in 1914, hundreds of land speed records have been set and broken at the BSF in a variety of automotive and motorcycle classes. For decades, the Salt Flats have decreased in size, strength and thickness. Last August, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved a final Environmental Assessment (EA) for replenishing salt to the BSF. The BLM adopted the approach recommended by SEMA and other organizations that are members of the “Save the Salt Coalition.” It requires a permanent replenishment program that guarantees the same quantity and quality of salt is returned to the BSF as is removed under an existing potash mining lease agreement. The mining company has already exceeded the EA requirements, pumping nearly 1 million tons of salt onto the BSF over the past two years without removing any salt from the same area. SEMA is working with the mine operator to now expand the effort. SEMA and the Coalition are also pursuing a public fundraising campaign to go beyond simple replenishment so that the BSF can be restored with millions of tons of additional salt necessary to achieve the goal. All contributions will be used to purchase salt and the equipment necessary to pump, transport and lay down the salt.
Protection for Johnson Valley OHV Area: As a result of the efforts of SEMA, the Off Road Business Association (ORBA) and a coalition of other land use groups, continued off-highway vehicle (OHV) access to Johnson Valley, California, has been guaranteed for now by the U.S. Congress. Congress included a provision in the 2013 Defense Authorization Act that requires the U.S. Marines to study alternative ways to share the area with the OHV community without taking ownership of the land. The Johnson Valley off-road area draws at least 200,000 visitors annually and may generate as much as $191 million annually into the economy. Johnson Valley is home to “King of the Hammers” and many other OHV events. The land has been controlled for decades by the BLM, which provides special-use permits for various motorized recreation activities. The U.S. Marine Corps wants to expand its base at Twentynine Palms, California, to include nearly 147,000 acres of adjacent land within Johnson Valley in order to conduct large-scale training exercises for one or two months per year. The land-use coalition is urging the Marines to simply obtain BLM special-use permits. Any transfer of land rights is subject to Congressional approval. The Marines are required to submit their study to Congress by April 2. SEMA will continue to advocate for a mixed-use solution which protects the Johnson Valley OHV area while granting access to the Marines via special use permits for the one or two months a year needed.
OHVs and Land Use Legislation: Threats to OHV access typically take form in legislation passed by Congress or regulations issued by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), BLM or other federal and state agencies. The actions threaten recreational access, designate lands as “wilderness” (roadless) or unnecessarily close lands to protect endangered species. Public land access issues are of keen interest to off-roaders and the SEMA-member companies that market products to those groups. SEMA has joined with a number of other organizations and enthusiasts to support legislation in Congress that would release 42 million acres of land from a wilderness designation. The lands have been set aside as “wilderness study areas” (WSAs) or “inventoried roadless areas.” WSAs are lands that have been identified as having wilderness potential. However, following extensive reviews, the BLM and USFS identified the 42 million acres included in the legislation as not suitable as wilderness. Mechanized equipment is forbidden on lands designated as wilderness and the federal agencies usually manage WSAs in a restrictive manner pending a final decision on whether to release the land. The legislation directs the agencies to manage the 42 million acres for multiple uses, including motorized recreation. SEMA continues to support land-use decisions that are reasonable and enjoy local community support. SEMA will continue to monitor and keep SAN members informed of restrictive legislative proposals.
Proposed National Monument Threat to OHV Trails: SEMA joined with the ORBA and a number of other motorized recreation groups to oppose designating 1.4 million acres of land in Utah as a National Monument. The area surrounds Canyonlands National Park and is referred to as “Greater Canyonlands.” There is no widespread local or Congressional support for the designation, which could threaten to close OHV use and shared access. The President has the authority to declare a National Monument but monuments are typically small in acreage. A number of conservation groups are now pressuring President Obama to designate the large swathe of Utah land and simultaneously close 1,050 miles of OHV routes and monitor 1,450 miles for possible future closure. SEMA and its motorized recreation partners sent a letter to the President urging the administration to abandon the idea, citing the positive economic impact of motorized recreation activities, which accounts for over $257 million in annual economic impact nationwide. SEMA has called for a more collaborative approach to land use decisions, including input from local citizens, elected leaders and other stakeholders.
Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus: The Caucus was formed in 1996 in honor of the 100th year of the car and to recognize the contributions the automotive performance and motorsports industry has made to the U.S. economy. This informal and bi-partisan Congressional Caucus, which now has over 70 members, pays tribute to America’s ever growing love affair with the car, motorsports and the specialty auto parts industry. Consumer sales of motor vehicle performance, appearance, comfort, convenience, and technology products total $30 billion in annually, while providing jobs for more than a million Americans. In its 15-year history, the Caucus is serving to raise the industry’s profile on Capitol Hill and in the eyes of the public. The Caucus does not seek to reach a consensus on legislative issues. For more information on joining the "Motorsports Caucus" or if you have any questions, please contact Dan Sadowski, Director of Congressional Affairs, at email@example.com or 202.783.6007 x. 19.
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards: SEMA supports CAFE standards that take into account the impact on jobs, safety, consumer choice and technological feasibility. Drastically increased CAFE potentially limits consumer choice if manufacturers are forced to make smaller, less powerful and less useful cars and light-duty vehicles in order to meet government fuel-economy demands. SEMA supports market-based solutions that allow the consumer to participate in and respond to national energy policies.
Health Care: The Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010 and will drastically overhaul the delivery of health care services in the United States as it is phased-in over the next several years. The new law impacts virtually everyone. It contains provisions that will benefit many SEMA members, like marketplace “exchanges” which will offer small businesses (100 or fewer employees) access to a variety of competitively-priced plans. For other members, it may have a profound negative impact (ex: mandates on companies with more than 50 workers to offer insurance). For everyone, it is clear that the law does not do enough to control and drive-down costs. SEMA will continue to pursue additional reforms to health-care policy.