Talkin' Torque: Wanna Talk EPA? Yeah, I Didn’t Think So

September 2021 Column, Feature Brady L. Kay

This article originally appeared in our August 2021 issue.

Nearly 20 years ago Sports Illustrated did a feature on sports superstitions including the infamous SI cover jinx. It was a cover feature (must have been a slow news week) with a black cat on the front and it was titled, “The Cover No One Would Pose For.” I remember thinking it was kind of odd to put just a cat on a sports magazine cover, but I can’t blame an athlete for passing on the opportunity to be on the cover for a feature talking about the SI cover jinx. (Teams or players featured on the cover have been known to lose or play horribly the week after being on the cover.)

The magazine reached out to several current players at that time including Kurt Warner who wore jersey number 13 for his career – a number many superstitious people feel is unlucky. After many rejections, the sports publication ended up with the black cat on the cover, which I’m guessing frustrated the editors.
I feel I can relate based on my experiences as I try to talk about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its involvement in the diesel industry.
Face it: as an industry we’ve been smacked around lately by the EPA, but similar to the SI cover jinx, no one really wants to publicly talk about it. Sure, during my off-the-record conversations people will vent their frustrations and displeasures until my ears bleed and nearly fall off. But ask for a quote that can be published and all I get are blank stares.

In November, the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance issued a study that found pollution controls had been removed from 550,000 diesel trucks over a 10-year period. And the stakes have been raised. Vehicle enforcement had traditionally meant civil suits, but in 2018 the EPA began to press criminal charges using a provision that was previously applied only against smokestack industries. That increased penalties to companies, and added the threat of jail for management.

After finding dozens of aftermarket parts companies in violation of the Clean Air Act for selling emissions defeat devices, the EPA announced it has stepped up enforcement against such companies and is clamping down on any aftermarket parts designed to bypass emissions controls, whether intended for on- or off-road use.

Kind of easy to see why EPA conversations have become so taboo, right? Everyone from product manufacturers to local shops are (rightfully so) afraid of ending up on the EPA radar. Not that they’re necessarily doing anything wrong, at least not anymore; sometimes it’s best just to lay low and I get it. That doesn’t even get into the creation of the RPM Act (Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports) backed by the good people at SEMA to clarify that it is legal to make emissions-related changes to a street vehicle for the purpose of converting it into a dedicated race vehicle. 

The thought of being fined or the threat of a VIN number being flagged so your daily driver becomes a “race only” vehicle, has diesel pickup owners a little uncomfortable talking about it.

Maybe we (me included) didn’t take the EPA warnings years ago seriously enough.

Starting with 2008 model year diesel trucks, manufacturers were required to include emission controlled systems to help with pollution. By removing or deleting the factory installed equipment your truck instantly gained horsepower as well as better fuel economy.

Soon deleting your truck’s emission system became as common as floor mats and the EPA was not impressed. It has taken several years, but for the most part the white flag has been raised as we’re all just trying to be compliant and stay off the EPA’s radar. It’s time to move forward as an industry, even if we’re not ready to talk about it.

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