Environmentalists Sue EPA over Non-Road Vehicle Emissions Regulations

On January 8th, Bluewater Network and Environmental Defense, represented by Earthjustice, filed a petition for judicial review in the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals opposing the Bush Administration?s emissions regulations for non-road vehicles such as snowmobiles. In particular, the groups contend that the regulations violate the requirements of the Clean Air Act (CAA) which command the EPA to set emissions standards that reflect the "greatest degree of emissions reductions" possible through the application of available technology.
"Once again, the Bush Administration is demonstrating utter contempt for protecting the nation's environment. By allowing the indefinite sale of dirty two-stroke engines in snowmobiles, backing off on catalytic converters for all-terrain vehicles, and failing to regulate noise pollution, we will sacrifice air quality, public health, and wildlife," said Russell Long, Bluewater Network's Executive Director. "We refuse to let Mr. Bush get away with this."

For example, EPA's newest regulations require snowmobile manufacturers to reduce hydrocarbon emissions by only 50 percent, while readily available four-stroke snowmobiles already on the market reduce hydrocarbon emissions by more than 95 percent. According to the California Air Resources Board, a day's ride using a conventional two-stroke engine similar to those employed by most snowmobiles in the U.S. releases the same amount of pollution as driving a modern automobile 100,000 miles. The EPA rule also backs away from an earlier requirement for all-terrain vehicle (ATV) manufacturers to install catalytic converters that greatly reduce smog-forming emissions, despite the fact that catalysts are already used on many on-road motorcycles, and have been used in automobiles since 1975.

Additionally, the EPA failed to regulate noise from any of the categories in this rulemaking. Federal law requires the EPA to establish standards for engines which are major source of noise. On average, recreational vehicles such as snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles and jetskis emit noise at levels ranging from 81 to 111 decibels (dB). Unfortunately, recreational vehicles hinder the American public's ability to enjoy the natural peace and quiet of their federal lands and waters. According to a recent report by the General Accounting Office (GAO), off-road vehicles such as snowmobiles and jetskis are permitted in nearly 50 percent of the areas managed by the four major federal land management agencies (National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service). In addition, the EPA's has refused to require thrillcraft manufacturers to place multi-tiered environmental labels on their machines, which would allow consumers to purchase the least polluting vehicles.

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