SEMA Instrumental in Delivering Pro-Hobbyist EPA Autobody Paint Rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After incorporating several recommendations from SEMA, including an exemption for hobbyists who paint their own vehicles, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a final rule to regulate paint-stripping, surface-coating and autobody-refinishing operations. The new regulation targets hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) that the agency believes may cause cancer or other health disorders.

    “As this proposal was deliberated over the last two years, there was significant concerns that the regulation would have a drastic impact on the ability of individual hobbyists to purchase and use these types of paint,” said SAN Director Jason Tolleson. “Through discussions with the EPA, SEMA was able to convince regulators that a rule could be produced that would develop ‘best practices’ for business operations while exempting hobbyists who infrequently paint their personal vehicles.”

    As a result, the regulation does not apply to paint stripping and surface coating performed by individuals as part of a hobby or for maintenance of their personal vehicles — so long as those activities do not exceed two motor vehicles (or the equivalent in pieces) per year. Additionally, the rule does not apply to painting done with an airbrush or hand-held, non-refillable aerosol cans.

    The EPA rule establishes best practices (spray booth, spray gun cleaning, etc.) for minimizing HAP emissions during commercial surface-coating operations. All shops are effectively required to have a filtered spray booth or prep station and use high-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) or equivalent spray equipment. Spray guns are required to be cleaned manually or with an enclosed spray-gun washer. The EPA believes many shops have already implemented these best practices.

    Under the new rule, owners and operators are required to provide training for their painters on how to properly spray surface coatings and clean equipment. The EPA has established minimum criteria required for in-house training, and painters would be required to complete refresher training and be re-certified every five years.

    Existing operations have up to three years to purchase equipment and complete the initial training of employees. As recommended by SEMA, the EPA will rely on self-certification for training programs.  Nevertheless, companies subject to the rule must send the EPA a one-time notification form stating that they are in compliance with the rule or will be within the allotted three years. Companies will have two years to submit the notification form, which will contain contact information and a brief description of the operation: number of spray booths, average number of employed painters, etc. Companies will be required to maintain in-house records verifying painter training/certification, filter replacement, a plan to control paint-stripping chemicals, etc.

    For more information about the rule, contact Jason Tolleson at or by phone at 202/783-6007, ext. 39.


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