HILTON HEAD, S.C. (May 5, 2011)—Tire manufacturers and retailers alike face major regulatory action on both the state and federal levels, especially in the environmental arena.
This was the message industry association officials had for attendees at the 27th Annual Clemson University Tire Industry Conference, held in Hilton Head April 6-8.
Tire manufacturers have multiple federal environmental actions to comply with, including climate change legislation, fuel economy regulations and greenhouse gas reporting, according to Tracey Norberg, senior vice president and corporate counsel for the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
“As of Jan. 1, all manufacturing facilities must report their greenhouse gas emissions if they emit more than 25,000 tons annually,” Norberg said. “That includes just about all tire manufacturing facilities.”
It will be crucial for the RMA and its member companies to assess the impact of the GHG reporting requirements on the construction of new plants and the modification of existing ones, she said.
Meanwhile, Congress is showing interest in revisiting the Toxic Substances Control Act, according to Norberg.
“It's unclear whether we will see any action in the current Congress, but TSCA has not been revised since 1976,” she said.
One of the most threatening regulations for tire makers, according to Norberg, is not a federal initiative at all, but California's “Green Chemistry” program.
“California developed regulations to limit what chemicals can be used in that state,” she said. “It's a real concern. The tire industry has had to explain that what goes into a tire is not what comes out, because of the magic called 'curing.'”
Tire dealers, meanwhile, are facing a hornet's nest of unfriendly laws and regulations all across the U.S., according to Roy Littlefield, executive vice president of the Tire Industry Association.
Among other things, Nevada is following California in advancing legislation to force tire dealers and auto repairers to check the tire pressures on every vehicle they repair, Littlefield said.
Tire aging legislation has spread like wildfire, he said. Suffolk County, N.Y., already has passed a law banning the sale of tires older than six years old, and New Jersey and Hawaii have introduced or are considering similar legislation.
Several members of Congress also are talking about introducing a tire aging bill, according to Littlefield. On the other hand, tire dealers in California are introducing a bill to weaken or repeal tire aging legislation there, he said.
Of all environmental regulations, Superfund has proven the most tragic for tire dealers, according to Littlefield. Under the Retroactive Liability Provisions of Superfund, tire dealers in more than 30 states have been forced to pay for cleanup of Superfund sites, including 2,200 tire dealers and service station operators at one site in New Hampshire alone.
In almost every case, the dealers followed the strict letter of the law in disposing of used oil and keeping records of where the oil went, according to Littlefield.
However, their law-abiding ways only made it easier for government inspectors to slap them with cleanup assessments that sometimes forced them to close down.
Littlefield said he would never forget a meeting between New England tire dealers and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) regarding the New Hampshire Superfund site.
“The widow of a tire dealer rose to speak, with tears in her eyes,” Littlefield said. “She said her husband had kept meticulous records as to where he sent his used oil, as the law required.
“Because her husband had been so conscientious, she had been forced to sell her house, hand over all the money from the sale of her husband's business, and drain her retirement account,” he said. “And she still hadn't paid everything she owed the EPA.”
On the positive side, Littlefield said TIA will continue to fight to strengthen periodic motor vehicle safety inspection laws and obtain the passage of the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act on both the federal and state levels.
TIA is working with BIPAVER, the European tire dealer and retreader association, and some 30 other national associations to support worldwide passage of Right to Repair, he said. Right to Repair will be a major thrust of the annual Aftermarket Legislative Summit to be held in Washington June 20-21, he said.