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March 12, 2007 – Smog checks could be extended to bikes

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is considering new regulations for on-road motorcycles, including a first-ever Smog Check.
Currently in California, cars seven model years old or older are checked once every two years for emissions. Now, there’s talk about adding motorcycles to that program, which has been passed on to a federal level.
The proposal stems from the popularity of modifying motorcycles’ exhaust systems.
In a separate proposal, CARB is seeking to tighten new motorcycle exhaust and evaporative emissions standards by 50 percent beginning with the 2013 model year.
Plans to reduce and check on-road motorcycle emissions are in the beginning stages, but officials said CARB should not have a difficult time passing the resolutions.
These regulations are part of a larger package of hundreds of regulations and control measures local air districts and the state board developed, and are due to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this summer.
California began Smog Check in 1982 to reduce air pollution produced by motor vehicles. There are more than 8,000 privately owned Smog Check stations and more than 15,000 Smog Check technicians.
Smog Check is one of the state’s most successful strategies to reduce vehicle pollution, though its provisions have often been the subject of heated disputes among lawmakers, state officials, industry representatives and environmentalists.
General emissions regulations are currently in place that apply to 280cc and larger motorcycles in the state, starting in the 2004 model year, with additional reductions required in the 2008 model year.
Whether bikes are covered under those regulations or not, none currently have to be tested for emissions at a designated Smog Check facility. It’s what happens after the sale that CARB is putting up for questioning. Ultimately, the two proposed regulations are intertwined.
“Studies indicate that motorcycles are subject to high rates of exhaust system tampering,” stated a CARB background paper on the draft 2007 state implementation plans. The board believes many motorcyclists in the state change their exhaust pipes and jetting.
Nick Haris, Western States representative for the American Motorcyclist Association, said CARB has subpoenaed a number of dealers around the state in a move he believes is related to the proposed regulation.
Haris also said the board might be looking to make some kind of tampering rule. Current California law does not permit modifications that increase emissions to 1978 or newer motorcycles.
“As for potential inspections, that’s where I’m not sure what we’re going to see,” Haris said. “As [subpoenaed] dealers sent off info, they haven’t heard anything back after months. I would think [CARB is] very serious.”
At this point, though, things are still in the developmental stage. Essentially, CARB has petitioned the EPA for the right to create a rule, Haris said.
From there, any regulation would go through a long, bureaucratic rulemaking process.
“We have no official recommendations at this time about instituting some kind of smog check for motorcycles,” said Karen Caesar, a CARB media representative who wouldn’t speculate further. “Anything in that department is very premature.”
At least two factors could get in the way of speedy rule ratification: procedures and age. Before anything is finalized, the board will need to determine how technicians will test the motorcycles. It also will have to consider the emissions standards it will set for older bikes. As they age, motorcycles inherently give off more emissions and CARB will have to determine what standards are acceptable or normal for a bike’s age. Haris said it’s likely a gross polluter average will be set.
Concerned parties will be able to comment during the rule-making process.
Regardless of the outcome, the EPA will be watching and stricter standards nationwide could follow.

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