Who’s afraid of the Big Bad EPA Wolf II

Who is afraid of the Big Bad EPA Wolf II

(taking on the tampering question)

Like any other industry the Compressed Natural Gas Industry has evolved over time. Any country that has a significant number of CNG vehicles has, as a nation, openly promoted their development through government subsidies (handouts), informational programs and help with developing which CNG system brand is suited for any given group of vehicles and help in developing a CNG refilling station infrastructure.

It is not clear when the EPA got involved with CNG conversions or even why they did. It seemed to have stemed from a few complaints of OEM’s (original equipment manufacture) feeling put upon since they were required pay thousands of dollars to certify their new vehicles and the retrofit converters didn’t have to pay.

Today we have some CNG systems with EPA certification which cost $5000 to $10,000 more per vehicle than a comparable aftermarket non-cert system. Most government handouts in the form or rebates or tax credits for a CNG conversion are now linked to EPA certification. So you have the OEM’s and EPA Hardliner converters trying to get their way (lets spread the EPA certification pain) by spreading their myth that all CNG conversions need certification. This myth that all vehicles must be re-certified if the vehicle is modified in any way is a hurtful lie. All OEM’s must certify their vehicles, EPA Hardliners (those converters who install EPA certified systems) choose to certify, the EPA Hardliners do so to be able to receive government handouts, the OEM’s have no choice.

Unfortunately most retrofit CNG converters are small. For a time though in the 90’s some aftermarket CNG conversion companies were willing to jump through the EPA certification hoops expecting that the handouts would make up the difference. Nationwide companies with fleets of vehicles, (who were being mandated by the CAA (Clean Air Act) to clean their emissions) looked to CNG, it seem like a good fit and for a while and many OEM and retro-fitters were producing CNG vehicles EPA certified and non-certified. As the handouts dried up or the CAA mandates failed CNG vehicle production stopped (there were actually a few years where CNG vehicle production in the US was negative due to earlier CNG vehicles failing or going out of service).

As an overview CNG conversion will only grow in a positive fertile environment, if it is forced through government mandates as soon as the handouts dry up people loose interest. In 2008 as the price of gasoline skyrocketed many vehicle owners nationwide looked to Natural Gas as an alternative to high gasoline. Even though many wanted to convert to CNG only those areas who had the CNG fueling infrastructure already in place were able to flourish. Potential CNG conversions shops began sourcing CNG systems from all over the world, ultimately 1000’s of vehicles were converted nationwide. The most significant increase was in the state of Utah with its abundance of Natural Gas and filling infrastructure. Many factions within the state began to take it upon themselves to monitor CNG system installers and CNG product suppliers.

Since specific information about the CNG industry concerning installation and regulation was unavailable the vacuum was fill with assumptions and opinions. Most of these assumptions and opinions turned out to be just that. Many of these assumptions centered around the requirements and legalities surrounding CNG conversions themselves.

I will try to list a few statements and questions pertaining to CNG Conversions. Below are a few of my opinions.

  1. A vehicle owner may be subject to EPA CAA (clean air act) SIP’s (state implementation plan) which may require an Emission test if they live in a air quality “non-attainment” area.
  2. OEM vehicle manufacturers who sell new vehicles need EPA certification to insure that their vehicle will run clean for the useful life of the vehicle.
  3. A vehicle owner must register their cars in the respective states they live in, their may be safety or emission inspections depending on the state and location.
  4. Because of the CAA (clean air act) the EPA has been given the charge to set respective air standards, new vehicles need to meet these standards.
  5. Once a person purchases a vehicle they may modify it as they like, they also accept liability.
  6. Anyone working on a vehicle whether it is a mechanic or owner must take the responsibility of keeping that vehicle safe.
  7. There are many safety standards in place for automotive component manufacturers this includes all CNG conversion components.
  8. There is no nationwide certification/training/organization for the Automotive Industry let alone the Natural Gas Industry, it are self regulated.
  9. The EPA has given the power of regulation of vehicles for “in-use testing” to each state through SIP (State Implementation Plan) to monitor vehicles that are in Air Quality “non-attainment” areas, there is no monitoring in other areas.The EPA has given the power of regulation of vehicles for “in-use testing” to each state through SIP (State Implementation Plan) to monitor vehicles that are in Air Quality “non-attainment” areas, there is no monitoring in other areas.
  10. The myth that the EPA will fine or prosecute someone for“tampering”is just that a myth it has never happened.

    Lets just look at how ludicrous it is to think that the EPA while enforcing their CAA worries about an individual modifying their vehicle.

  1. The EPA operates through“endangerment”findings, this gives them their authority to regulate vehicles only through a states SIP.
  2. Where there is no“endangerment”there is no regulation state or federal.There are no EPA police behind the bush’s.
  3. Even though in theory an individual vehicle may pollute in the end it is not against the law. States with SIP’s can refuse a non-compliant vehicle their license but there is no fine, that individual may register in an area that has no emission testing.
  4. In the end as soon as a vehicle is driven off the showroom floor they begin their road towards “tampering”in is strictest sense, the engine is burning through its “useful life”.
  5. Tampering is an ambiguous term used my many EPA Hardliners to scare vehicle owners and converters, tampering has to be proven, then there has to be a punishment that will be enforced. Ultimately tampering and its so called punishment is just a figment of some self serving persons imagination.

As I have explained it is up to each individual to maintain their vehicles, we are a free country.  In the future I hope that CNG Conversions in the United States will move forward through Independent conversion shops using modern proven CNG systems.  In the end Big Brother needs to stay out of they way and let American ingenuity and entrepreneurship take over.

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: younkin@gmail.com or 801-427-2284

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This entry was posted in Aftermarket converters, Automotive, CNG conversions, EPA, EPA Fanatics, EPA regulations, Government, Green, Palin, Regulation, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Who’s afraid of the Big Bad EPA Wolf II

  1. J.D. Hunt says:

    I signed up for your news letter (11/26)and am very interested in CNG vehicles and fill stations.

    • Jim Younkin says:

      JD, I am in the process of putting out my next newsletter, send me an E Mail at younkin@gmail.com tell me your interests and how I can help you. Where do you live and how is CNG conversions going where you are, Jim
      801 427 2284

  2. beowulf says:

    Jim, stumbled over your blog this evening, fascinating site. If the EPA has stymied Utah’s expansion of CNG fuel (a pity, you’d be the model for the rest of the country), then its become a political problem requiring a political solution. Since this can be fixed administratively, its an easier task than passing a new federal law. Its a question of getting one of or both of your senators (Hatch and the new guy… Lee) on board.

    Any senator can be a stick in the mud at any time, but with the Senate nearly tied, well there’s never been a better time to request a favor from the WH. Hatch and/or Lee could point out to the White House that Utah wants to regulate new technology in a way that will meet clean air standards, lower fuel costs and most importantly, reduce our economy’s dependence on foreign oil. The senators should ask the President to direct the EPA Administrator to grant a national security waiver to Utah and then to monitor the program to determine if it should be the model for the rest of the country.

    If Hatch doesn’t act on (which means being a stick in the mud until he get the waiver), run it by Jason Chaffetz’s office, dollars to donuts he’s running against Hatch in 2012. :O)

    42 USC 7522(b)(1) “The Administrator may exempt any new motor vehicle or new motor vehicle engine, from subsection (a) of this section, upon such terms and conditions as he may find necessary for the purpose of research, investigations, studies, demonstrations, or training, or for reasons of national security.”

    • Jim Younkin says:

      Beowulf, We did pass Utah HB 70 last year (read about it on my blog), the problem now with CNG Conversions is that the gasoline price went down and the differential between gasoline and CNG has to be higher before people will consider conversions again. I have done about 6 conversions this year, gasoline,CNG bi-fuel and CNG-Diesel mix. Those who really want to convert will do so with or without the government handouts. Here in Utah there are CNG kits, CNG tanks and CNG compressors for sale, Jim
      Cell 801 427 2284
      E Mail younkin@gmail.com

      • beowulf says:

        Oh OK, glad Utah got it on the books. I suppose if the state adopts a policy towards the EPA of “beg for forgiveness instead of ask for permission”, ultimately the President (with sufficient senatorial nudging) can bless it retroactively with a stroke of pen.

        From what I’ve read, CNG retrofits are the most cost-effective way to reduce dependence on foreign oil, I’m over in Georgia but would love to see you guys lead the way on this. I guess the next question is, how big does the tax credit have to be for a retrofit to be a “no brainer” under HB 70?

        To that end, I’d note the new GOP House leadership just amended the House budget rules (not sure which prevails if Senate rules differ); under the Cutgo rule, tax cuts don’t have to be paid for while spending increases still do. So a bigger tax credit is what your congressional delegation should be pushing for. I don’t live in Utah, but I’d rather the money flow your way instead of to Saudi Arabia.

        I wouldn’t call an alternative fuel tax credit “a handout”. Since an absurd percentage of our $700+ billion defense budget goes towards protecting overseas energy resources, anything that reduces our need for oil imports (which is half of our trade deficit) is a public good worth subsidizing.

        If you want to delete this thread and answer offline, you can respond to delray151 at yahoo dot com.

      • Jim Younkin says:

        Beowulf, I have been arguing the tax credit rebate problem for the last 3 years, the problem arises when they tie getting the monies dependent on having EPA certification. All of the rebates or tax credits are tied to EPA certification. The EPA will only certify new vehicles for a price, subsequently the price of the conversion goes up and a persons choices of vehicles are limited. The jump in price is usually more than the rebate or tax credit. I know of no person who has been fined or prosecuted for converting their car to natural gas. HB 70 states specifically that there is no rebate for these new conversions, HB 70 does not apply to EPA conversions. I testified before the Utah House and attended all of the hearings for HB 70l I was there when the Governor signed the Bill, as far as I know it is still being implemented. As I see it here are the problems.
        1) Most people are scared of the EPA and their rules, there is much confusion here.
        2) Most people want to convert their own used cars, they can not be EPA Certified.
        3) There are few states that have the refueling infrastructure in place to refuel CNG vehicles.
        4) Even though the price of CNG is under $1.30 the gasoline price is still around $2.80, the differential is not sufficient for most to be able to recoup their investment in a timely manner.
        5) Rebates tied to EPA Certification.
        Again as I stated before some will go ahead and convert, but the number is small, our government is not helping the process, they offer no support for converters. If you look at other countries their models are different. I hope this helps, Jim

  3. Trey says:

    Jim,

    Read this paragraph right below the tampering provision in the CAA.

    No action with respect to any element of design referred to in paragraph (3) (including any adjustment or alteration of such element) shall be treated as a prohibited act under such paragraph (3) if such action is in accordance with section 7549 of this title. Nothing in paragraph (3) shall be construed to require the use of manufacturer parts in maintaining or repairing any motor vehicle or motor vehicle engine. For the purposes of the preceding sentence, the term “manufacturer parts” means, with respect to a motor vehicle engine, parts produced or sold by the manufacturer of the motor vehicle or motor vehicle engine. No action with respect to any device or element of design referred to in paragraph (3) shall be treated as a prohibited act under that paragraph if
    (i) the action is for the purpose of repair or replacement of the device or element, or is a necessary and temporary procedure to repair or replace any other item and the device or element is replaced upon completion of the procedure, and
    (ii) such action thereafter results in the proper functioning of the device or element referred to in paragraph (3). No action with respect to any device or element of design referred to in paragraph (3) shall be treated as a prohibited act under that paragraph if the action is for the purpose of a conversion of a motor vehicle for use of a clean alternative fuel (as defined in this subchapter) and if such vehicle complies with the applicable standard under section 7521 of this title when operating on such fuel, and if in the case of a clean alternative fuel vehicle (as defined by rule by the Administrator), the device or element is replaced upon completion of the conversion procedure and such action results in proper functioning of the device or element when the motor vehicle operates on conventional fuel.

    Read this line 5 times…

    shall be treated as a prohibited act under that paragraph if the action is for the purpose of a conversion of a motor vehicle for use of a clean alternative fuel

    • Jim Younkin says:

      This is saying an EPA certified conversion is not tampering, just like putting on non OEM parts is not tampering, just like option 3 OUL conversions of the new EPA rules for AFV’s is not tampering. Yes I have read these rules over and over, read some of my early articles where I talk about tampering.

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