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MRF Comments to EPA on Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Control of Emissions from Spark Ignition . . . Highway Motorcycles

JANUARY 5, 2003

The Honorable Christie Todd Whitman
c/o Ms. Margaret Borushko
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
National Vehicle and Fuels Emission Laboratory
2000 Traverwood
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105
Via E-mail:

Dear Administrator Whitman:

This e-mail comment regards Docket A-2000-02, the Environmental Protection Agency's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on "Control of Emissions from Spark Ignition...Highway Motorcycles," and will be followed up with a hard copy of this letter and the attachment. Let me begin by thanking the agency for extending the deadline for public comment on this complex rulemaking as requested by our letter dated September 19, 2002.

This deadline extension enabled the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) to seek out and ask a noteworthy economist to study the economic impact of the proposed rulemaking and test the degree to which the agency complied with various regulations as it has asserted. This analysis was made possible solely by selfless contributions from concerned individuals and organizations committed to reasonable emissions regulations and the continued health of motorcycling in America. MRF is grateful to these individuals and organizations for their contributions.

We herewith forward our economic study and urge the EPA to heed this analysis, as it makes up the bulk of our public comments on this complex rulemaking.

The following are our most noteworthy findings:


Safety has been one of many serious concerns expressed by MRF since the EPA first announced its desire to promulgate new motorcycle emissions rules. As recently as September 2002 in our request for a deadline extension for public comments on the agency's proposed street bike rule, MRF asked about safety and requested that EPA study this important issue. The EPA has failed to do so, and instead made a blithe comment that the safety problems are "not insurmountable." The fact is, motorcycles equipped with catalytic converters may not be mountable.

The January 2003 issue of Cycle World features a 2003 superbike from a major European manufacturer. The catalyzer tucked under the bike's seat generates enormous heat. "Our infrared thermometer registered 140 degrees F when pointed at the top heat shield, this after a two-minute idle on a 70-degree day," the magazine reported.

If the "heat shield" reached 140 degrees after just two minutes of idling on a 70-degree day, how hot will it get on a 100-degree day after untold minutes in gridlocked traffic? At what point do riders and passengers begin to suffer the impaired judgment and faculties symptomatic of heat injury? Should there be a heat injury warning on cat-equipped highway motorcycles, and what should it say?

EPA is silent on these questions, except to say the questions are "not insurmountable" (i.e., "capable of being passed over").

We spoke to an expert on heat injury with the University of Florida who said the only way to quantify "the heat load borne by a rider and passenger" - and the degree to which catalyzers tip the scale in a dangerous direction - is a "pilot study." In his words, put cat- and not-cat bikes - of ALL popular styles and cat configurations - together, in a setting that mimics summer gridlock, check the temperatures, including the core temperatures of riders and passengers, and watch the numbers, especially the rate of climb in core temperatures (of riders and passengers).

EPA had the opportunity to establish an emissions standard that cleaned the air while accommodating riders' natural inclination to improve their machines through personalization. Instead, EPA proposes emissions standards that are not only unnecessarily harsh, but actually encourage the forbidden practice of modifying or disabling emissions control devices.

In "Editor's Notes" on the 2003 cat-equipped motorcycle referred to above, Cycle World Executive Editor Brian Catterson's "only complaint is the excessive heat radiating off the catalytic converters, I think we all know the cure for that...."

MRF concludes that motorcycles equipped with catalytic converters impose a burn hazard to riders, passengers and passers-by. Moreover, cat-equipped motorcycles impose the threat of heat injuries (e.g., heat stress, heat stroke) and may increase injuries and fatalities due to rider fatigue and particularly the loss of faculties and impaired judgment symptomatic of heat injuries. There will be a human cost to equipping motorcycles with catalyzers, and that cost will be measured in injuries and fatalities.


The EPA did not meet its obligations under SBREFA, because its analysis of the proposed emissions standards considered only motorcycle manufacturers - and particularly a handful of large motorcycle manufacturers. EPA never considered the economic impacts that the proposed standards would have on the thousands of small businesses that also belong to the U.S. motorcycle industry: franchised dealers, independent shops and aftermarket makers and suppliers. The agency failed to comprehend that independent shops and aftermarket parts providers are, indeed, small-volume motorcycle makers - the smallest of the small-volume makers - and their very existence is threatened by this rulemaking.


Carrying one person to and from work to the auto's 1.1 persons, motorcyclists complete urban commutes in a fraction of the time as motorists. It cuts delay as much as 35% according to one study - often by 50% in the experience of many riders. While motorcycles cut congestion, they also cut road wear. Road repair and construction carry significant environmental price tags that have been thoroughly and inexplicably ignored by the EPA.

The most dramatic benefit of motorcycles to society is fuel conservation. If just ten percent of the 1.5 trillion annual car miles were traveled by motorcycle, America would save over 4.1 billion gallons of fuel - enough fuel to power every freight train in the nation for a year, with enough left over to send over 100,000 tractor-trailers around the world. Presuming 21 miles per gallon for autos and 50 m.p.g. for motorcycles, this fuel savings is dramatic. The stated goal of imposing new CAFÉ standards on Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) is some 5 billion gallons over a five-year period. With the right public policies in place, motorcycles can save 4 billion gallons in one year. To chance reducing motorcycling in America through the application of unnecessarily stringent emissions standards is public policy folly.

The EPA's analysis ignores the impacts of the proposed standards on future motorcycle sales by assuming sales will grow smoothly at 1 percent annually. Historically, the evidence shows that national sales are subject to radical year-to-year swings. Moreover, a sharp, prolonged downward trend in motorcycle sales is predictable using California as a model. The EPA ignored the fact that over-regulation in California has reduced motorcycling there. California experienced a 7.7% reduction in motorcycle registrations between 1996 and 2001 while registrations increased by 32.2% in the other 49 states. Even a cursory look at the data suggests that government regulations explain much of the fall in California's motorcycle registrations.

In addition, the EPA based its per-ton cost estimates on questionable accounting methodology and presumes that competition will force manufacturers, distributors and marketers to pass along to final consumers higher prices that will not exceed the agency's engineering cost estimates. EPA's estimates, however, presume an oligopolistic manufacturing sector. In fact, the stringency of the proposed emission standards are more likely to bestow monopolistic power to a handful of companies that possess exclusive knowledge of the pollution-control technologies the standards demand. The agency presumes intense competition, but that competition is likely never to materialize, leaving consumers to face far higher prices than EPA estimates.

When realistic cost estimates are used, EPA's proposed emission standards for on-highway motorcycles would cost from $3,500 to more than $7,500 per ton (2001 dollars) - making highway motorcycle emissions reductions the most costly of all previously implemented mobile source pollution prevention programs with the least possible pollutions savings.


EPA has received ample warnings - from various voices in this debate - that catalyst-forcing standards produce negligible environmental benefits at considerable cost to jobs and personal freedom as compared to only a slightly less stringent standard. Even major manufacturers, represented by the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), argue against EPA's Tier II standard - what they term a "catalyst-forcing standard." (Note: MRF argues that a "catalyst-forcing standard" is elusive, because so many manufacturers are resorting to catalysts now, years in advance of EPA's proposed Tier I, much less Tier II, standard.)

Mr. Tom Austin spoke for MIC at EPA's September 17 public hearing:

"[O]ur concern with greater use of catalyst]s]...has to do with the fact with catalyst systems are likely to have higher emissions with the catalyst removed than motorcycles designed to meet a slightly less stringent standard without catalyst[s]....

"Three-way catalysts generally have to run with...stoichiometric fuel metering [i.e., virtually no oxygen remaining after combustion] and no air injection. If you compare the emissions on a motorcycle designed with a three-way catalyst system upstream of the catalyst to a motorcycle designed to comply with the less-stringent standard, which is air injection, the non-catalyst bike is going to have lower emissions.

"So if the catalysts come off the bikes because of use of aftermarket exhaust systems, we're going to have slightly higher emissions from the bikes that were originally equipped with catalyst[s]. And we think that's an effect that the [California] Air Resources Board did not acknowledge in its rulemaking and that your Regulatory Support Document doesn't acknowledge. It's a fact of life yet your Regulatory Support Document assumes that the...deterioration [of] emissions in customer service is going to continue to go down as the standard drops. And in fact, the opposite is true. The more catalysts...are forced, the greater the deterioration of customer service because of the large fraction of those catalysts that are going to be removed. And we really think that the final analysis should reflect that reality. We don't see anything happening either nationwide or in California that is going to change the current rate of exhaust system replacement."

The EPA gives no serious consideration to the sort of potential consequences, mentioned by Mr. Austin, of selecting the Tier 2 standard over a "slightly less stringent" standard. EPA assumes, but never demonstrates that the proposed standards will have no impact on motorcycle sales. The MRF urges the EPA to consider that a less stringent standard would better serve the public interest, and further urges the adoption of a standard that would preclude the necessity of equipping motorcycles with catalytic converters.

In conclusion, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation finds that the EPA's proposed rule on highway motorcycles will endanger motorcyclists, sharply reduce motorcycling in America, imperil motorcycling small businesses, hike fuel consumption and traffic congestion and lead to more pollution, not less. Therefore, a complete overhaul of this proposed rulemaking is in order.


Thomas C. Wyld
Vice President, Government Relations
Motorcycle Riders Foundation
P.O. Box 1808
Washington, DC 20013
Phone: 202/546-0983
Fax: 202/546-0986
Web Page:

Attachment: An Economic Analysis of the EPA's Proposed Emission Standards for On-Highway Motorcycles, prepared for the Motorcycle Riders Foundation by Garrett A. Vaughn, Ph.D., Economic Consultant

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