Sep 6, 2019

Feds aims to block California's emissions end run

Photo: Ken Ross/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

President Trump is pulling out all the stops to shut down an effort by California to enlist automakers on a plan that would undermine his administration’s effort to roll back strict Obama-era carbon emissions and mileage mandates.

Where it stands: The Justice Department is seeking to determine if Ford, VW, Honda and BMW "violated federal competition law by agreeing with each other to follow tailpipe-emissions standards beyond those proposed by the Trump administration," WSJ reports.

  • The story cites anonymous sources familiar with the matter. DOJ declined to comment. Ford, Honda and BMW said they will cooperate with DOJ on the matter.
  • VW couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

On a second front, lawyers for the EPA and the Transportation Department on Thursday warned Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, of legal action if the state tries to set its own rules "that would violate federal law."

Why it matters: The 2-pronged attack stands to escalate tensions between Washington, Sacramento and the auto industry over Trump's plan to freeze emissions standards at 2022 levels, rather than allow them to climb sharply higher.

  • By targeting the 4 companies that signed the California deal to make cleaner cars, the administration aims to dissuade more automakers from joining.
  • GM, whose CEO met with Trump on Thursday, is not likely to sign on to the California plan, sources tell Axios.

The Trump administration is cranking up the heat. Multiple reports on Thursday said that the EPA will soon move to revoke California's authority to set its own vehicle pollution rules, Axios' Ben Geman writes.

The bottom line: The administration appears to be taking no chances that California's attempted end run gains momentum while it finalizes its own, looser requirement.

Go deeper

WSJ: Justice Dept. probes carmakers in California emissions deal

Attorney General Bill Barr. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Justice Department (DOJ) has opened an antitrust inquiry into 4 major automakers who recently struck a deal with California to boost emissions standards for their nationwide fleets, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: The report, if correct, signals the opening of a new and high-stakes front in the fight between California and the White House over vehicle emissions and mileage rules.

Go deeperArrowSep 6, 2019

Trump officials likely to back off automotive regulations freeze

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images

The Trump administration will likely endorse modest increases in vehicle mileage and emissions standards when it completes rules to weaken Obama-era mandates, multiple sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: The move, depending on the details, will likely force automakers into tough decisions about whether to endorse it.

Go deeperArrowOct 2, 2019

New twist in the Trump-California auto fight

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Trump administration could soon move to revoke California's authority to set vehicle pollution rules that are tougher than federal standards, per multiple reports Thursday.

Why it matters: It’s the next phase in the high-stakes battle between the White House and California over carbon emissions and mileage rules and a key part of the wider White House effort to freeze Obama-era standards, rather than allowing them to get significantly tougher through the mid-2020s.

Go deeperArrowSep 6, 2019