Oct 28, 2019 - Energy & Environment

Auto industry splinters in climate fight

The high-stakes battle between President Trump and California over auto mileage and carbon emissions rules is getting even messier.

Driving the news: GM, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota and others announced they are joining the Trump administration's side in litigation over its move to block California from imposing emissions rules — and by proxy mileage requirements — that are tougher than federal standards.

The other side: Four other big automakers — Ford, VW, Honda and BMW — did not join the intervention announced Monday. Last summer, those four reached a deal with California on toughening standards through the mid-2020s.

Why it matters: The stark split among giant automakers signals how the powerful industry is struggling to navigate through one of the thorniest regulatory fights in years — and one being fought over a pillar of the Obama-era climate agenda.

  • The Transportation Department and EPA last year proposed freezing Obama-era standards in place (although the EPA has hinted that the final version of the plan to weaken the Obama rules could still require slight increases in stringency).

Where it stands: The Trump administration last month said it's yanking California's waiver under the Clean Air Act to impose its own vehicle emissions rules, which 13 other states follow.

What's happening: The trade group Global Automakers announced the intervention Monday, but it also includes players outside that group including GM. So it's occurring under the auspices of a group called the "Coalition for Sustainable Automotive Regulation."

  • "The decision to intervene in the lawsuit is about how the standard should be applied, not what the standard should be," John Bozzella, CEO of Global Automakers, said in a statement.
  • "The certainty of one national program, with reasonable, achievable standards, is the surest way to reduce emissions in the timeliest manner," he said.

The intrigue: Honda is a member of Global Automakers but declined to join the intervention in the litigation.

  • "Honda is not a participant in this litigation, and it is not contributing any funds supporting our trade association's activity in this area," the company said in a statement to Axios.
  • "We have been very clear on wanting to avoid lengthy and costly litigation on this issue, which will result in a great deal of regulatory uncertainty."

What they're saying: Sen. Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Senate's environment panel, attacked the move by GM, Toyota and others to join the case on the Trump administration's side.

  • "By aligning themselves with this administration’s reckless and illegal proposal, these companies are actively challenging the rights of states to set their own emissions standards and tackle the climate crisis," he said in a statement.

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