Some automakers are backing the Trump administration in its efforts to bar California from setting its own emissions rules and defining the federal government as the sole entity that can set fuel efficiency and zero-emission requirements, according to a late Monday filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals. Fiat Chrysler, General Motors, Hyundai and Toyota made the move following legal challenges by California and 22 environmental groups last month, per a recent Reuters report. Other manufacturers supporting the move include Kia, Mazda, Nissan and Subaru.
The automakers, along with the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and trade group Global Automakers backed the administration’s decision. For its part, NADA argued the determination provided automakers “with the certainty that states cannot interfere with federal fuel economy standards.” This move comes after four automakers — BMW, Ford, Honda and Volkswagen — reached an agreement with California on limiting emissions. To date, those automakers have not joined the others backing the Trump administration’s move.
Several Democrats rebuked automakers’ decision to side with the administration on this issue. Delaware Senator Tom Carper, who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, admonished the likes of GM, FCA and others. “Instead of choosing the responsible path forged by four automakers and the state of California, one that will move us toward the cleaner, alternative fuel vehicles of the future, these companies have chosen to head down a dead-end road,” he said Monday.”
States also voice their support for the federal government
Seven states, including Alabama, Ohio, Texas, Utah and West Virginia also voiced their support for the Trump administration’s determination. Like NADA, among others, the states argue California-like rules would force their residents to pay more for their vehicles. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed freezing fuel efficiency requirements at 2020 levels until 2026. That proposal rolls back Obama-era requirements, which called for average fleetwide improvements to 46.7 mpg.
The final EPA rule may slightly boost fuel economy requirements from the earlier proposal, according to Reuters. However, the rules will be less stringent than those set by the Obama administration, no matter what form they take.
Automakers face a complex climate as California continues its challenge against the federal government. A spokesperson for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said, “The courts have upheld our authority to set standards before and we’re hopeful they will again.” John Bozzella, preisdent and CEO of Global Automakers and representing the Coalition for Sustainable Automotive Regulation, said the group was taking a position on how the fuel economy standard should be applied, and “not what the standard should be.” What’s more, he said the automakers support a “middle ground” approach between California’s standards and what the Trump administration’s rules.
After the four automakers reached an agreement with California, the Justice Department issued a warning. Reuters reports on documents from the department saying automakers may “violate federal antitrust laws” by striking an agreement outside the administration’s fuel economy standards. The outcome of the legal challenges may lend clarity to automakers concerned that aligning with California’s stringent fuel economy targets means stepping out of compliance with federal regulations.