Rolling coal is the practice of modifying a diesel engine to increase the amount of fuel entering the engine in order to emit large amounts of black or grey sooty exhaust fumes into the air. It also may include the intentional removal of the particulate filter. Practitioners often additionally modify their vehicles by installing smoke switches and smoke stacks. Modifications to a vehicle to enable rolling coal may cost from $200 to $5,000.
Rolling coal is a form of conspicuous air pollution, for entertainment or for protest. Some drivers intentionally trigger coal rolling in the presence of hybrid vehicles (when it is nicknamed "Prius repellent") to cause their drivers to lose sight of the road and inhale harmful air pollution. Coal rolling may also be directed at bicyclists, protesters, and pedestrians. Practitioners cite "American freedom" and a stand against "rampant environmentalism" as reasons for coal rolling.
Health risks associated with rolling coal include respiratory issues. The American Cancer Society has linked exposure to diesel exhaust to lung cancer. A more actionable concern is road traffic safety violations, as the black smoke can impair visibility, risking motor vehicle crashes. and violation of clean air laws.
In July 2014, the United States Environmental Protection Agency stated that the practice was illegal, as it violated the Clean Air Act which prohibits the manufacturing, sale, and installation "of a part for a motor vehicle that bypasses, defeats, or renders inoperative any emission control device [and] 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." In March 2015, Illinois General Assembly representative Will Guzzardi published a bill proposing to impose a $5,000 fine on anyone who removes or alters their vehicle's EPA emissions equipment. Guzzardi has made it clear that "The fine would come on top of any penalties enforced by the current law that prohibits emissions tampering."
In May 2015, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill into law prohibiting the retrofitting of diesel-powered vehicles to increase particulate emissions for the purpose of coal rolling. Those found in violation are subject to a fine by the state's Department of Environmental Protection. The bill was introduced by state Assemblyman Tim Eustace after a pickup truck blasted smoke at Eustace's Nissan Leaf while driving on the New Jersey Turnpike. In Colorado and Maryland, proposed bans failed in 2016 but were passed in 2017.
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- Ramsey, Jonathon (March 27, 2015). "Illinois bill would make 'rolling coal' illegal". Autoblog. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
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- "New Jersey Senate Bill 2418". LegiScan. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
- Shaver, Katherine (May 26, 2017). "No more 'rolling coal' on Maryland roads". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Tomasic, John (May 2, 2017). "Colorado to outlaw 'rolling coal' nuisance exhaust". The Colorado Statesman. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rolling coal.|
- "Diesel Technology Forum Statement on "Rolling Coal"". Diesel Technology Forum. July 17, 2014. Statement from the diesel industry criticising the practice.