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Gridlock in Boston. Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Four huge automakers — Ford, Honda, VW and BMW — said Thursday that they've struck a voluntary deal with California on vehicle emissions rules that they're hoping will form the basis for a nationwide agreement with the Trump administration.

Why it matters: It signals a break between the companies and the White House as the Trump administration pushes ahead with plans to weaken mileage and emissions standards.

  • The Trump administration is planning to freeze annual emissions standards increases in 2020, rather than letting them grow stricter as envisioned under Obama-era rules.
  • The EPA, as part of that plan, would seek to strip California's special permission under the Clean Air Act to set its own emissions standards that a number of other states follow.

Yes, but: While major automakers had backed efforts to weaken Obama-era rules they call too aggressive, they have also bristled at Trump's push to freeze them outright.

The big picture: According to Reuters, under the deal with California, "the stringency of the requirements would increase at a nationwide average annual rate of 3.7% annually starting in the 2022 model year through 2026, and 1% of that annual improvement could be covered by credits awarded for building electrified vehicles."

What they're saying: "These terms will provide our companies much-needed regulatory certainty by allowing us to meet both federal and state requirements with a single national fleet, avoiding a patchwork of regulations while continuing to ensure meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions," the four automakers said in a joint statement.

  • They added that the agreement is "available to all automakers."
  • Mary Nichols, California's top air quality official, told the Washington Post that she sees the deal as an "olive branch" to the Trump administration.

Go deeper: How California can meet its aggressive clean energy law

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

Pfizer-BioNTech: Booster doses more effective at blocking Omicron

Prepared doses of the BioNtech-Pfizer Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine in Germany on Dec. 7. Photo: Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that two doses of their COVID-19 vaccine were significantly less effective at neutralizing the Omicron variant in early lab tests, but a three-dose regimen was more effective.

Why it matters: Omicron, which has been labeled a variant of concern by the World Health Organization after being identified by scientists in South Africa last month, has forced vaccine makers to reassess the effectiveness of their vaccines against this specific new form of coronavirus.

Mike Allen, author of AM
1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Biden unveils "Building a Better America" branding

President Biden speaks on infrastructure while visiting a bridge in Woodstock, N.H., last month. Photo: John Tully/Getty Images

President Biden today launched a new website and unveiled bold new branding as part of a nationwide tour to sell the benefits of his infrastructure package.

Why it matters: The White House says passage of the new law shows the ability to "forge bipartisan consensus and prove our democracy can deliver big wins" even in these toxic times.

3 hours ago - World

Olaf Scholz sworn in as German chancellor, succeeding Merkel

Incoming German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is sworn in by Bundestag President Bärbel Bas in Berlin today. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Social Democrat Olaf Scholz was sworn in as chancellor of Germany on Wednesday, succeeding Angela Merkel after 16 years and launching a new era of German and European politics.

Why it matters: Scholz, a center-left pragmatist who served as finance minister and vice chancellor in Merkel's last government, will lead Europe's largest economy in a coalition with the environmentalist Greens and pro-business Free Democrats.