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John Stewart

President Cancels Streamlined ESA Process

President Obama has withdrawn a policy adopted by the Bush Administration in late 2008 allowing federal agencies to approve a commercial development (road, power plant, homes, etc.) on its own authority if it is determined that the project will have no impact on a threatened species. 

The Interior Department will return to the previous application of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and require all federal agencies to first consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) if there was the potential to impact a threatened or endangered species. In the past, this periodically led to a review process that could last months or years and be contested in court. 

Millions of acres of land have been closed under the ESA as a mechanism to protect plants and animals. Nevertheless, there is general consensus in Congress that the ESA needs to be updated so that less money is spent on ESA lawsuits and more is spent on providing quality habitats.

The issue is of consequence to SEMA members that market products for use on off-highway vehicles since public access has been denied to roads and trails in ESA-protected areas. 


Source: SEMA Action Network

 

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John Stewart

Politicians Want to Use Tax Dollars to Crush Newer-Model Trucks and SUVs

 

Under the legislation, “fuel efficient” means at least 25% better mileage than the CAFE standard. It will be illegal to resell the scrapped vehicles. Bill sponsors want to destroy 4 million pickups and SUVs over the next four years. 

The program will fail to achieve its goal of improving fuel efficiency and stimulating car sales, but will increase unemployment and the cost of used cars and parts. Here’s why:

  • Given the minimal $1,500–$4,500 voucher value, the program will lure rarely driven second and third vehicles that have minimal impact on overall fuel economy and air pollution. This is not a wise investment of tax dollars.
  • The program will reduce the number of vehicles available for low-income individuals and drive up the cost of the remaining vehicles and repair parts. This is a basic supply-and-demand reality.
  • The program will remove the opportunity to market specialty products that are designed exclusively for the targeted pickups and SUVs, including equipment that increases engine performance and fuel mileage. Congress will be enacting a program to eliminate jobs and reduce business revenues in the automotive aftermarket.  
  • The idea that the trucks and SUVs must be scrapped in order to save energy is irrational. The program’s “carbon footprint” does not factor in the amount of energy and natural resources expended in manufacturing the existing car, spent scrapping it and manufacturing a replacement car.  
  • The program fails to acknowledge driver needs, such as the ability to transport a family, tow a trailer or rely upon the performance, safety and utility characteristics associated with the larger vehicles. Instead, these vehicles will be destroyed.
  • There is no evidence that the program will achieve the goal of boosting new-car sales or increasing fuel mileage. Many states have considered scrappage programs in the past as a way to help clean the air or increase mpg, but abandoned the effort because they simply don’t work. The programs are not cost-effective and do not achieve verifiable fuel economy or air-quality benefits.  
  • The program will hurt thousands of independent repair shops, auto restorers, customizers and their customers across the country that depend on the used-car market. This industry provides thousands of American jobs and generates millions of dollars in local, state and federal tax revenues.

“Our members, like all business entities, are suffering the effects of the stalled economy,” said Steve McDonald, SEMA vice president of government affairs. “In fact, for our members that market product for newer vehicles, we depend on a thriving and vibrant auto industry to create new business opportunities. We support efforts to spur new-car sales. We don’t, however, support public policy efforts that we are convinced don’t work and will waste tax dollars in the process.”

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John Stewart

Scrappage Update from SEMA

Editor’s Note: As Congress is considering various scrappage proposals, this “Scrappage Update” section has been included in Driving Force to brief SAN members on developments surrounding these harmful and shortsighted measures. Critical to this effort are SAN members rallying their fellow hobbyists against these programs. Here is a letter that was sent by long-time SAN member Tom Cox to enthusiasts in his area.

Fellow Hobbyists,

Some of you are no doubt aware that Congress is considering funding another ill-advised “Cash for Clunkers” program. In the past, such scrappage programs have been largely funded and administered at the state level. Unfortunately, Congress is poised to ram a stimulus package through within 30 days of the inauguration. Many congressional members, at the urging of car dealers and manufacturers, are petitioning the Obama transition team to support a federal scrappage program funded with billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars as part of the stimulus package.

The belief is that low-income families will trade their clunker for $1,500 or $2,000 from Uncle Sam, and then rush to buy a new car. In addition, it is believed that buying and scrapping these older cars will clean the air. Both assumptions are heavily flawed.

Many of the cars traded in under this plan would have been driven sparingly, if at all, and many would likely come from junkyards and junk dealers. Additionally, these older vehicles represent a minimal part of the pollution problem due to their small numbers and minimal annual mileage. This is another feel-good proposition that will not address the true causes of air pollution, but will only serve to make bureaucrats feel useful.

Low-income families will never be able to buy a new car simply because someone gave them $1,500 or $2,000. New cars cost far more than that; $1,500 or $2,000 will not cover taxes, DMV fees and the higher insurance fees required on most new vehicles. Not only will these lower-income folks not be able to access a new car, but they will find the cost of a used one in their price range is harder to find, as all the inexpensive cars will be scrapped under this plan. Accordingly, they will be limited to working in areas serviced only by public transportation, which will trap many in deteriorating metropolitan areas without access to better jobs. In addition to the motorists affected, auto body shops, general repair shops, auto parts companies and many others in our backyard will be affected negatively through the scrapping of these cars.

Many of you may wonder how this will affect the old-car hobby. It will impact us immediately in some ways and eventually in others. There will be an immediate reduction in older parts available for restoration and project cars. Old cars will be looked upon as detrimental to the environment and will be labeled as such. Most government programs and initiatives such as this start out as “voluntary.” Eventually, they then become permanent, and we may all be compelled to rid ourselves of older cars or prevented from driving them. In addition, bodyshops and auto-service-related businesses will dwindle in number, driving up repair costs. Once old cars are labeled as gross polluters due to this legislation, we will be forced into emissions testing or even paying carbon taxes on our cars. There is even the possibility of federal auto registrations to keep track of these older cars. Trust me, you and your hobby will be disproportionately affected by this legislation.

Instead of Cash for Clunkers, if politicians really want to help in these times of crisis while cleaning the air, they should support the following recommendations offered by our friends at SEMA:

  • Allow an above-the-line tax deduction for interest, sales and excise taxes associated with the purchase of a new car or provide a tax credit/voucher for everyone towards the purchase of a new or used car, more efficient car, etc.
  • Provide tax credits to help repair or maintain an older vehicle since this employs the people who make the parts, sell them or install them. This will offer the owner added performance, drivability and fuel mileage and significantly reduce pollution since maintenance, not age, is the greatest factor affecting air pollution from vehicles.

Act now! Please respond immediately to the Action Alerts sent by the SEMA Action Network and available at www.semasan.com. On behalf of your fellow hobbyists, I thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Tom Cox
Vice President Membership AACA
President Southwest Virginia Car Council
Past President Virginia Museum of Transportation
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John Stewart

SEMA LEGISLATIVE QUICK HITS

The SEMA Action Network is a nationwide partnership of car clubs, and individual enthusiasts (like you) who work together to impact legislation that affects car and truck hobbyists of all kinds.  Here are some Legislative Quick Hits:

California Specially Constructed Vehicles: SAN-supported legislation to increase the allowable number of exempted specially constructed vehicle registrations from 500 to 750 vehicles per year was approved by the Assembly Transportation Committee. Current law provides for emissions-system certification and a model-year designation for specially constructed vehicles, including kit cars. Under the law, vehicle owners choose whether a smog-test referee certifies the engine model year or the vehicle model year. To determine model year, inspectors compare the vehicle to those of the era that the vehicle most closely resembles. If there is no close match, it is classified as a ’60 vehicle. Only those emissions controls applicable to the model year and that can be reasonably accommodated by the vehicle are required. The Department of Motor Vehicles provides a new registration to the first 500 specially constructed vehicles per year that meet the criteria.

Kansas Specialty-Vehicle Fees: The SAN is opposing legislation to raise the registration fee on antiques, street rods and special-interest vehicles. The bill has already passed the House. The Senate substituted the House bill with all-new language to increase the state’s revenue. One section of the substituted bill increases the registration fee for all passenger vehicles, while two separate sections were inserted to specifically target antiques and street rods/special-interest vehicles. Under the substituted bill, each of the registration fees would increase by $10 on January 1, 2013, and by another $10 on January 1, 2014.

Mississippi Nitrous Oxide:
The SAN was successful in negotiating a compromise on legislation that originally threatened to prohibit public road use of all motor vehicles equipped to supply the engine with nitrous oxide. The bill was signed into law by Governor Haley Barbour. Originally written as an outright ban, the new law allows for the installation of nitrous-oxide systems as long as the feed lines are disconnected or the canisters are removed while the vehicle is being operated on a public road. The SAN amendment better protects public road safety while ensuring legitimate off-road uses of nitrous-oxide systems.

Massachusetts Exhaust Noise:
A bill targeted for defeat by the SAN to ban the “use and sale of any exhaust pipe that increases the sound emissions of any vehicle, including motorcycles,” was set aside for study by the legislature. This action means that the measure is unlikely to be considered by the legislature this year. Among other things, the measure ignored the fact that aftermarket exhaust systems are designed to make vehicles run more efficiently without increasing emissions and did not supply law enforcement with a clear standard to enforce, allowing officers to make subjective judgments on whether or not a modified exhaust system is in violation. Legislation to require the incorporation of noise-level testing into the vehicle inspection process was also set aside. The bill did not define a noise-level limit but allowed it to be determined by the regulators.

West Virginia Exhaust Noise:
A SAN-opposed bill to provide that the noise from a motor-vehicle exhaust system that has been deemed “disturbing or unreasonably loud” constitutes the crime of disturbing the peace is dead for the year. Under the bill, violators could have been fined up to $1,000 per occurrence, jailed for six months or both. Among other things, the bill did not supply law enforcement with an enforcement standard, allowing officers to make subjective judgments on whether an exhaust system is “disturbing or unreasonably loud;” failed to recognize that a better way to address this issue is by establishing a fair and reasonable exhaust-noise decibel limit; ignored the fact that aftermarket exhaust systems are designed to make vehicles run more efficiently without increasing emissions; and would make it difficult for hobbyists to replace factory exhaust systems with more durable, better-performing options.

 

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John Stewart

Lawmakers Pursue Tougher Vehicle Safety Rules

The legislation would require the NHTSA to establish new motor-vehicle safety standards related to electronics and unintended accelerations, such as a brake-override requirement. Event data recorders (“black boxes”) would eventually be required on all new vehicles. The maximum amount that can be imposed in civil penalties would be increased. The NHTSA would also have more money to fund agency programs, including a new department dedicated to vehicle electronics and emerging technologies.

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