‘Rolling coal’, deemed illegal by the EPA, enjoys 15 minutes of fame

If that’s how someone feels about
a Prius owner, I can only imagine what
they think of bicycle riders.
(Photo from Rollin Coal & Raisin Hell
Facebook page)

Prepare to be depressed about the current state of civic relations here in America…

Remember our two recent reports about “rolling coal”? That’s when someone who owns a truck drives it close to another road user and then purposely spews a huge cloud of black exhaust fumes at them. We first reported about it after a man claimed he was a victim of it while riding near Mt. Tabor back in February. Rolling coal made our front page again last month when a truck driver did the same thing to a group of people riding bikes in Beaverton. In that case, one of the people on bikes turned out to be an off-duty Washington County Sheriff deputy who then pulled the driver over. (Note, we initially reported that it was a member of the Beaverton Bicycle Patrol Unit and have since learned that was incorrect.)

Fast-forward a few weeks and it seems “rolling coal” has broken through beyond YouTube videos and truck enthusiast forums and onto the major online news media. Stories this week on Talking Points Memo, Slate, Huffington Post, and other outlets have brought the behavior out of the shadows.


According to reports, people are modifying their trucks as a way to annoy “environmentalists.” Some truck drivers even put large stickers on their back windows that point to aftermarket mufflers that read “Prius repellent”.

Along with this increased attention for “rolling coal” comes a confirmation from the federal Environmental Protection Agency that the behavior is illegal and runs afoul of the Clean Air Act. According to the “tampering” section of the EPA’s “Air Enforcement” website,

“The CAA [Clean Air Act] prohibits anyone from tampering with an emission control device on a motor vehicle by removing it or making it inoperable prior to or after the sale or delivery to the buyer. A vehicle’s emission control system is designed to limit emissions of harmful pollutants from vehicles or engines.”

In fact, one company that manufactured devices that allowed people to remove emission control devices from their trucks agreed to pay a $500,000 civil penalty to the EPA in January 2013.

Unfortunately it’s unlikely we’ll see any decrease in “rolling coal” incidents. In fact, it will probably grow in popularity simply due to all the publicity it’s enjoying during its 15 minutes of fame. Rollin Coal & and Raisin Hell, a Facebook group that has been featured in the news stories is relishing the attention. For what it’s worth the people behind that group believe it’s just a harmless prank and that, in light of other sources of diesel emissions, a few seconds of black smoke isn’t a big deal.

We’ve contacted the Washington County Sheriff’s office to find out more about the incident from last month. We’ll update this post when we get more details.

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