Lawmakers Want ‘Safe Harbor’ for Small Businesses Selling Illegal Air Polluting Auto Parts

Bipartisan group says agency effort to target aftermarket devices that defeat emissions controls will hurt small businesses without clear guidelines.
May 30, 2023

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers led by Midwestern representatives is asking the federal government to make it easier for small businesses that may sell illegal auto parts designed to defeat emissions controls to come into compliance.

The group of 13 lawmakers led by Rep. Greg Pence, of Indiana, and Rep. Haley Stevens, of Michigan, want the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to provide a “safe harbor” for auto businesses by providing “clear guidance” for businesses and selling parts.

“Going forward, we ask that EPA prioritize working to educate those in specialty automotive aftermarket businesses on their responsibilities under the Clean Air Act and encourage compliance by creating reasonable safe harbors, providing clear guidance for businesses producing and selling parts for dedicated race vehicles and clearly defining the parts and products that are defeat devices subject to enforcement,” the representatives wrote in a letter to the EPA.

In 2023 alone, at least three central Indiana auto parts dealers have agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in civil penalties to settle allegations they violated the Clean Air Act by selling the “defeat devices.”

Pittsboro-based Fleece Performance LLC in February agreed to pay $190,548, remove “defeat devices” from any vehicles and engines owned or operated by the company and to destroy its inventory of “defeat devices.”

Global Xpress Parts LLC, of Elwood, and Extra Power Performance LLC, of Carmel, also settled with the EPA, agreeing to pay a combined $552,590 penalty and to stop manufacturing and selling defeat devices.

Pence said the EPA should work with auto businesses to ensure they can stay in business and accomplish “common goals.”

“For over 100 years, America has had a rich cultural tradition of motorsports and automotive hobbies,” said Pence. “This industry has become not only a passion, but also a career, for over 1 million American men and women, particularly in Indiana, which is the racing capital of the world. In order for the motorsports industry to continue to thrive, it is critical that the EPA’s enforcement practices do not negatively impact those who manufacture, sell and use products for legitimate auto racing competitions.”

Mobile sources of air pollution, like emissions from vehicles, make up about half of all air pollution emitted in the U.S. They are also responsible for about 28% of all the greenhouse gases emitted in the country.

According to the EPA, the full removal of emissions controls with aftermarket devices allows vehicles to emit pollutants more than 1,000 times the levels of vehicles with standard emissions controls.

The devices allow about 1,140 times the emissions of non-methane hydrocarbons, which can increase the risk of having a stroke; about 310 times the amount of nitrogen oxides, which damage the respiratory system and combine with other chemicals to produce ozone on hot days; about 120 times more carbon monoxide, which affects the body’s ability to transport blood; and about 40 times more particulate matter, which can cause premature death in people with heart or lung disease.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the EPA was not on track to meet its goal to stop aftermarket defeat devices. The GAO recommended the EPA develop guidance for regions to identify the devices and enforce regulations. The EPA agreed to do so, but did not develop a timeframe for the changes.

Lawmakers Want ‘Safe Harbor’ for Small Businesses Selling Illegal Air Polluting Auto Parts