What You Need to Know About the Clean Air Act

Clean Air Act

Breeze Customs Blog


here are several acts and standards that regulate imports into the United States. If you’re importing vehicles specifically, you must comply with the Clean Air Act: the primary federal law in the United States concerning air pollution. Read on to learn more about the Clean Air Act and its requirements for imported vehicles.

What is the Clean Air Act?

The U.S. Clean Air Act is the first federal law regulating air pollution. It was passed in 1963 and amended in 1970, 1977, and 1990. Among other things, the Clean Air Act authorizes EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and welfare and regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants.

The Clean Air Act Extension of 1990 added new requirements for manufacturers to reduce emissions from cars and trucks, including fuel economy labeling on new cars imported and sold in the U.S. The latest amendments also focused on reducing emissions from motor vehicles, industrial facilities, and power plants.

Who is responsible for implementing the Clean Air Act?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for implementing the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to regulate emissions from light-duty vehicles, light-duty trucks, motorcycles, and the engines used in heavy-duty vehicles and heavy-duty trucks.

The EPA sets national air quality standards based on scientific studies of what levels of pollutants are considered safe for human health and welfare. EPA also issues regulations that establish emission standards and requirements for cars, trucks, plants, and factories. Violations of the Act can result in hefty penalties.

What vehicle imports are prohibited by the Clean Air Act?

With few exceptions, the Clean Air Act applies to all new cars manufactured for sale in the U.S., including imports from other countries such as Canada or Mexico. For imported vehicles, the Clean Air Act prohibits the importation of any vehicle or engine that does not conform to the United States EPA emission standards and requirements.

These standards apply to all vehicles and engines, including imported motor vehicles, heavy-duty engines, non-road engines (generators, watercraft, and lawn and garden equipment), and recreational vehicles — whether new or used, manufactured domestically or abroad.

What imported vehicles are exempt from the Clean Air Act?

There are four cases where imported vehicles do not require compliance with the Clean Air Act:

  • Vehicles at least 21 years old
  • Engines not in a vehicle or chassis
  • Racing vehicles
  • Unregulated fuel vehicles

What are the EPA requirements for importing a vehicle?

When importing a vehicle into the United States, you must file an EPA Standard Form 3520-1. This form must be submitted to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to import passenger vehicles, highway motorcycles, and corresponding engines into the United States.

For non-road and heavy-duty highway engines, you must file an EPA Standard Form 3520-21. The form must be submitted to CBP for each imported stationary, non-road, or heavy-duty highway engine, including engines incorporated into vehicles or equipment.

Are you importing a vehicle or engine and want to check if it’s excluded from the EPA’s Clean Air Act regulations? Book a meeting with one of our Breeze Customs Concierges to start importing your vehicle today!