Trying to Understand Bureaucrats
For weeks I have been looking over the letter that Carol Rushin from the EPA Region 8 office in Denver sent to Utah Governor Herbert concerning Utah HB70. I was a founding member of CCATS (www.utahccats.com). CCATS (Certified CNG Automotive Technicians for Safety) was formed as a direct response to the January 18th UHP ruling that all CNG vehicles in Utah must have an EPA Certification or they would not pass the UHP Safety Inspection thus making it impossible for that CNG Vehicle owner to register said vehicle. This ruling lost in court and the UHP changed their Safety Inspection procedures. Over the last few years many rumors and falsehoods have been spread about CNG Conversions causing undo stress on CNG converters and would be CNG vehicle owners. To their credit the EPA has tried to clear up some of the confusion concerning CNG Retrofits but I personally find it hard to understand what they say sometimes.
The EPA is charged with protecting the citizens of the United States from a harmful environment. In relation to vehicles they set standards that OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) must meet in their new vehicles. Within their regulations they are also charged with not producing regulations that overly burdensome on the population.
“From EPA website: In general, it is clear that EPA’s primary objective in enforcing the statutory prohibition on “tampering” must be to assure unimpaired emission control of motor vehicles throughout their useful life. It is EPA’s policy to attempt to achieve this objective without imposing unnecessary restraints on commerce in the automotive aftermarket.”
Over the past few years the CNG conversion process has become more and more burdensome due to real or perceived “ imposing (of) unnecessary restraints on commerce in the automotive aftermarket.” These restraints have come from all sides, public and private, from individuals and bureaucrats protecting their budgets salaries and jobs.
It’s sort of that old lawyer question “when did you stop beating your wife?” You answer I have never beat my wife! The EPA asks why are you tampering (the tampering is assumed). In reality it is up to the Lawyer and the EPA to show that a person has beaten his wife or tampered……
Let’s break down one of the confusing paragraphs from the letter below.
“All vehicles and engines sold in the United States are subject to the same emission standards, regardless of the fuel with which they operate. Manufacturers, sellers and installers of aftermarket conversion kits are subject to a federal prohibition against tampering with emission control devices installed on vehicles and engines or installing devices to defeat those emission control devices, as well as a prohibition against manufacturing or selling devices which defeat those emission control devices. (Act section 203(a)(3), 42 U.S.C. § 7522(a)(3)). Manufacturers, sellers and installers of aftermarket conversion kits must manufacture, sell and install only kits certified by EPA in order to be exempted from these prohibitions.”
If a person wanted to summarize this paragraph they could say,
“All new vehicles sold in the United States must be certified by the EPA to prove that they will continue to run clean though out their useful life which is from 100,000 to 120,000 miles. The EPA also has regulations which prohibit a person from tampering with emission control devices thus causing a vehicle to run dirty. This regulation also applies to CNG conversions. If a person chooses to have their CNG conversion system certified by the EPA they can be assured that their conversion system will continue to run clean throughout the vehicles “useful life”. Thus an EPA certified CNG Conversion is not tampering .”
EPA regulations and EPA bureaucrats assume that the reader understands their legalese and their circular tautological logic. I have written numerous articles in my Blog http://www.younkincng.com trying to sort through this type of thinking.
Let’s look at another paragraph:
“If our reading of the pending legislation is correct, it would allow inspectors at the State level to inspect and “certify” vehicles retrofitted with aftermarket conversion systems or kits to run on compressed natural gas (CNG), even if those vehicles have not been certified by EPA. These and other aspects of the Bill seem to imply that manufacturers and installers of conversion kits are not subject to the federal prohibitions discussed above, or that these entities may avail themselves of a safe harbor. However, HB 70 would not change the federal requirements. Under current EPA regulations, manufacturers of aftermarket conversion kits must obtain a certificate of conformity from EPA, and installers of kits must use only certified kits to avoid violating the prohibitions in section 203(a)(3) of the Act.”
In the first sentence it looks like Carol is comparing Utah State Emission testing as explained below to EPA Certification:
From (www.younkincng.com Utah HB70 Made Simple)
“HB70 “(b) tested to ensure that the retrofit compressed natural gas vehicle satisfies the emissions standards:
(i) if any, for the county in which the retrofit compressed natural gas vehicle is 49 registered; or 50
(ii) for the county in the state with the most lenient emissions standards, if the retrofit compressed natural gas vehicle is registered in a county with no emissions standards.
A person who performs a retrofit on a retrofit compressed natural gas vehicle shall certify to the owner of the retrofit compressed natural gas vehicle that the retrofit does not tamper with, circumvent, or otherwise affect the vehicle’s on-board diagnostic system, if any.”
Individual retrofit converters and vehicle owners are not Original Equipment Manufacturers. They have no need to spend 1000’s of dollars testing their vehicles, in many states including Utah a person may be required to pass an “in use” emission test to ensure that the vehicle is passing the minimum standards required by the State Implementation Program or SIP Plan.
From http://www.younkincng.com “Utah CNG Technicians Show Obama What a Wrench Ready CNG Stimulus Plan Really Is!” we learn about state SIP Plans:
“CNG Vehicles along with every other vehicle are regulated by the State through their SIP (state implementation plan) Plan. These SIP plans are proposed by the State and then accepted by the EPA thus transferring regulatory authority to the States for their Air Quality.”
Utah SIP Plan: http://www.airquality.utah.gov/Planning/SIP/index.htm
EPA certifications are a whole different process. .
From http://www.younkincng.com CNG Conversions Explained:
“What is an “EPA” certification? The EPA tests the CNG vehicle and uses DF’s (Deterioration Factors)7 along with other tests to prove that the vehicle will continue to run clean throughout its useful life.8 This “useful life” varies from 50,000 to 120,000 and up to 10 years9 whichever comes first. The EPA only certifies conversions for new vehicles. They do not certify older vehicles10. That explains why “EPA” conversions are all newer vehicles. Finally this EPA Certification expires after the “useful life” of the vehicle. The EPA Certification of a CNG Conversion is a method whereby a company can test a CNG conversion and reliably assure their customers that the conversion will continue to run clean throughout the vehicles “useful life”. This Certification is similar to OEM (original equipment manufacturer) certification process that every car maker has to submit to. Similarly if a competent technician install a CNG conversion system on a vehicle and tunes it correctly, you will have the same outcome. Many CNG Conversion systems available today were “EPA Certified” for certain vehicles at some point but due to the cost and red tape these companies have chosen to not renew their certifications. A simple system whereby a state could check an installed CNG System for safety and emissions is all that is needed.”
If Carol were to take the time to research HB70 or just ask clarification questions I am sure some of her concerns could be cleared up. Let’s look at another aspect of HB70 that Carol is confused about:
“These and other aspects of the Bill seem to imply that manufacturers and installers of conversion kits are not subject to the federal prohibitions discussed above, or that these entities may avail themselves of a safe harbor. However, HB 70 would not change the federal requirements.”
As referenced above HB70 provides for State Emission Testing in compliance with the SIP Plan which the EPA agreed to and the CNG system installers, “shall certify to the owner of the retrofit compressed natural gas vehicle that the retrofit does not tamper with, circumvent, or otherwise affect the vehicle’s on-board diagnostic system, if any.”
HB70 is not circumventing or providing safe harbor to anyone, what it does do is to test new CNG Conversions for safety and emissions. The EPA certification process is concerned with emissions, they leave safety standards to the installers. HB70 adds a safety aspect to the CNG conversion process. HB70 provides that a CNG conversion must meet NFPA52 safety standards.
The EPA and every other vehicle owner in Utah should thank Jack Draxler and all those who have worked to bring HB70 into existence. By passing HB70 Governor Herbert will be the first State Governor to help ensure that his states highways are safe and the air is cleaner. HB70 is a workable program that can be rolled out nationwide to help keep all highways safe and their air clean.
Jim Younkin is a mechanic with more than thirty years experience in automotive repair. His passions include car racing, mountain climbing, ice climbing, and CNG conversions. He enjoys sharing his passions and connecting with other of like mind. See more about Jim at http://www.younkincng.com
email: firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-427-2284