By on November 8, 2019

The Justice Department has issued civil subpoenas to the four major automakers’ that voluntary agreed to adopt a Californian compromise on vehicle emission requirements. The antitrust investigation seeks to determine whether or not BMW, Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen were in violation of federal competition laws by agreeing with each other to adhere to stricter emissions standards penned by California.

With the Trump administration working for years to roll back emissions standards, California has been doing everything in its power to maintain its ability to self-regulate and gain support for higher emission standards. Under the agreement with the Golden State, the companies promised to meet annual emission improvement targets of 3.7 percent and defer to the state’s authority to set its own emissions standards. (Read More…)

By on October 29, 2019

Ford Motor Co, Honda Motor Co, BMW Group and Volkswagen AG announced a voluntary deal with California in July — drawing a line in the sand for who they’ll be supporting in the fueling fracas taking place between the Golden State and White House. Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s rollback proposal — which intends on freezing automotive emission standards at 2020 levels through 2026 — saw no such support. But the cavalry seems to have finally arrived after sitting on the sidelines during the battle’s opening maneuvers.

General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, Kia, and Subaru all sided against California in a filing with a U.S. appeals court from Monday night. While they’re not setting any economy targets, they are collectively firm on the issue of the state’s ability to self regulate. A large portion of the industry wants a single national standard, not individual states setting their own benchmarks while they attempt to catch up with product.  (Read More…)

By on September 25, 2019

With California gearing up for a legal battle against federal regulators eager to revoke its fuel waiver, we knew it wouldn’t be long before another salvo was launched in the gas war. However, the latest skirmish is a bit personal. According to Automotive News, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler issued a letter to to California Air Resource Board chief Mary Nichols on Tuesday that framed the Golden State as unfit to dictate U.S. environmental policy.

The letter claims California has “the worst air quality in the United States” and a backlog of implementation plans to address ambient pollution standards surpassing every other state in the union.

California is scheduled to receive over $4 billion in annual federal highway funding this October. Now, the EPA is claiming the state failed to enforce the U.S. Clean Air Act. As a result, the Trump administration is threatening to withdraw those funds if the region doesn’t take immediately action on 130 different state implementation plans.   (Read More…)

By on September 10, 2019

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler weighed in on the gas war this week, issuing some firm language on the matter during a visit to Chattanooga, Tennessee. His words were softer upon returning to Washington, where he reminded everyone that the EPA has made no formal decisions on the matter and suggested there could still be room for compromise.

Unfortunately, locating that happy middle ground has been a bit of a problem. Despite the fuel economy rollback’s status as a proposal, hard lines have been drawn in the sand between the Trump administration and California’s regulatory bodies. The Golden State’s compromise was to delay the Obama-era targets by one year. California also recruited municipalities, U.S. states, and automotive manufacturers to pledge their support of the plan, resulting in a handful of carmakers finding themselves on the business end of an antitrust probe.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s compromise has been nonexistent. Wheeler’s words suggest that might be because everyone is still making up their minds… but not before he gently razzed the West Coast for being shortsighted an singleminded.  (Read More…)

By on September 6, 2019

The Justice Department has opened an antitrust probe into four automakers that formed a pact with California to compromise on tailpipe emissions, effectively circumventing federal regulators, last July.

Over the summer, Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., BMW AG and Volkswagen Group announced a joint agreement with the California Air Resources Board to adhere to fueling standards slightly lower than Obama-era rules but still significantly higher than the Trump administration’s proposal from 2018. The Justice Department is seeking to determine whether or not that qualifies as a violation of federal competition laws. (Read More…)

By on July 25, 2019

While we’ve dinged the media for erroneously reporting that automakers were unilaterally “backing” California in the fuel-economy fracas that’s currently taking place within American politics, it appears four of them actually are starting to choose a side. However, this again requires a bunch of clarification. Despite not adhering fully to the state’s ideal emissions scenario, Ford Motor Co., BMW Group, Volkswagen Group, and Honda Motor Co. released a joint announcement stating they have reached a voluntary agreement with the state of California to adopt compromised vehicle emissions rules.

Since there’s nothing binding in the joint agreement and automakers make (and break) promises all the time, the deal is largely meaningless. Doubly so, since the fuel-economy rollbacks have yet to be finalized. But this does illustrate how a handful of manufacturers are willing to accommodate others in order to get a nationwide solution. It also shows a softening of California’s previously ironclad environmental stance, which is much more interesting.  (Read More…)

By on July 9, 2019

On Tuesday, 23 governors signed a joint statement urging the Trump administration to reconsider the proposed rollback of Obama-era fueling regulations. Led, unsurprisingly, by California Governor Gavin Newsom, the letter suggests a “common-sense approach” to national requirements with an emphasis on rising standards.

A minor update in the gas war to be certain — and yet annoyingly framed by a large portion of the media as a victory for California when the realities are far more complicated. To be frank, we’re getting pretty tired of these lopsided takes. This whole thing is a regulatory and political quagmire… on all sides.  (Read More…)

By on June 21, 2019

us-capitol, public domain

Capitol Hill was the scene of some high-school drama this week after representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) reportedly refused to sit at the same table while discussing fueling regulations with the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

As petty as this seems, it illustrates the overall situation rather well. White House officials terminated talks with California in February, citing an inability to progress the debate. Meanwhile, CARB has been claiming the Trump administration doesn’t want to hear its case and has instead sought to strip the state of its ability to self regulate in order to pass reforms that would freeze national emissions standards at 2020 levels though 2026.

Thursday’s congressional bickering helped paint a clearer picture of what the communications breakdown looked like.  (Read More…)

By on June 20, 2019

The United Auto Workers is spending Thursday telling Congress that the union opposes the Trump administration’s proposal to freeze fuel efficiency requirements at 2020 levels through 2026… sort of. While the UAW expressed moderate environmental concerns in the past, most of its opposition to the rollback has revolved around corporate investments into the industry. In fact, the union’s research arm called fuel economy the auto industry’s “future” in 2018.

This time around, the UAW seems to be singularly focused on business aspects. According to a prewritten testimony, UAW Legislative Director Josh Nassar intends to tell two subcommittees of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee that the union is in line with automakers’ concerns about the proposal leading to “protracted litigation and uncertainty in the industry that will limit growth.” (Read More…)

By on June 12, 2019

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee said it will schedule a hearing on June 20th regarding the Trump administration’s proposal to roll back automotive efficiency standards. The decision comes from Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Environment and Climate Change Chairman Paul Tonko (D-NY) — all of whom are in clear opposition to the suggested plan.

The groups will hold a joint hearing to discuss Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and carbon pollution regulations affecting light duty vehicles as they relate to the current administration’s plan to effectively freeze efficiency targets between 2020 to 2026.  (Read More…)

By on June 7, 2019

The automotive industry is in turmoil. There’s an industrywide push toward electrification that has yet to prove itself as truly profitable, volume seems to be tapering off in the developed world, and emissions regulations aimed at improving air quality are operating counter to existing consumer tastes. As a result, automakers are scrambling to find the best path forward.

In 2017, that path involved encouraging the new U.S. president to roll back Obama-era fuel economy mandates, thus providing some breathing room and staving off fines as automakers began to realize they wouldn’t be able to meet tightening targets. The administration listened, leading to a proposal that would effectively freeze mileage standards at about 37 miles per gallon — rather than the previously decided 54.5 mpg — by 2025.

However, California and a coalition of supportive states claim they won’t be going along for the ride. This group says it will maintain the old standards, regardless of what the White House says. The staredown has automakers worried; they’ve now banded together to issue a letter asking both sides to calm down and keep talking.  (Read More…)

By on March 6, 2019

The Trump administration has long been at odds with California and a coalition of supportive states that hope to block the rollback of Obama-era fueling regulations the current Environmental Protection Agency deems “unsustainable.” The EPA also says it’s inconsistent with consumer behavior. But automakers have behaved somewhat erratically on the matter, forcing the president to request (by proxy) that they make up their minds and pick a side before a final decision is made.

While industry leaders previously backed the more stringent regulatory framework set in place by the former president, they quickly converged on Washington after Trump assumed office in 2017, requesting a softening of Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. After blowback from California and environmental activists, automakers took a more measured approach, publicly stating that they support green initiatives and reducing their own carbon footprint — and suggesting that a national deal be reached that pleases all parties.

Fence-sitting time might be over.
(Read More…)

By on October 29, 2018

General Motors Renaissance Center

General Motors appeared to endorse the Trump administration’s fuel economy rollback, at least to some degree. In a federal filing made public on Monday, the largest U.S. automaker said Obama-era rules that targeted fleetwide fuel efficiency in excess of 50 miles per gallon by 2025 were “not technologically feasible or economically practicable.”

Interesting, considering GM CEO Mary Barra recently called for for the adoption of a national zero-emission vehicle strategy. However, the document also had GM saying it was “troubled” that the current administration appears so keen to abandon federal incentives on electric vehicles after the 2021 model year.  (Read More…)

By on October 25, 2018

California and 18 other states plan to formally vent their grievances over the Trump administration’s proposal to freeze fuel economy standards at 2020 levels on Friday. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have called for public comments on the matter, with the deadline taking place at the end of this week. Apparently, California wants its voice to be the last one heard.

“They are grossly derelict in not trying to move the dial forward in cleaning the air and the environment,” California’s attorney general Xavier Becerra said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “The situation continues to get worse and requires action now, and not for us to stand pat.”  (Read More…)

By on October 5, 2018

California is considering a formal, public counter-proposal to the Trump administration’s proposed rollback of the existing fuel economy requirements for passenger vehicles. Gearing up for the launch, the state has requested that automakers present detailed information on their future products and explain why they’re seeking relief from fueling mandates they previously agreed to adhere to.

“They’ve never submitted to us any information that would back up those claims in any detail to help us craft a solution,” Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, (CARB), said in a Thursday interview with Bloomberg(Read More…)

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