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California versus Trump and his mentally-retarded supporters…

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Author Topic: California versus Trump and his mentally-retarded supporters…  (Read 1764 times)
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Having fun in the hills!

« Reply #50 on: September 07, 2019, 08:57:17 pm »

from The New York Times…

Justice Department Investigates California
Emissions Pact That Embarrassed Trump

The investigation escalates a standoff between President Trump, California and
the auto industry over one of his most significant rollbacks of climate regulations.

By HIROKO TABUCHI and CORAL DAVENPORT | Friday, September 06, 2019

The automakers under anti-trust investigation are Ford, Volkswagen, Honda and BMW. — Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.
The automakers under anti-trust investigation are Ford, Volkswagen, Honda and BMW. — Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

THE Justice Department has opened an antitrust inquiry into the four major automakers that struck a deal with California this year to reduce automobile emissions, according to people familiar with the matter, escalating a standoff over one of the president's most significant rollbacks of climate regulations.

In July, four automakers — Ford Motor Company, Volkswagen of America, Honda and BMW — announced that they had reached an agreement in principle with California on emissions standards stricter than those being sought by the White House. The announcement came as an embarrassment for the Trump administration, which assailed the move as a “P.R. stunt.”

Now, the Justice Department is investigating whether the four automakers violated federal anti-trust laws by reaching a deal with California, on the grounds that the agreement could potentially limit consumer choice, those people said. The Justice Department declined to comment on the investigation, which was reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The investigation comes amid a battle over the Trump administration's effort to drastically roll back Obama-era rules intended to reduce emissions from cars and light trucks that contribute to global warming, a rollback that major automakers have publicly opposed. The administration is also considering a plan to revoke California's legal authority to enforce stricter greenhouse gas emissions rules within its state borders, putting the two sides on a collision course.

In a clear signal that the administration intends to increase the pressure on California, top lawyers from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department on Friday sent a letter of rebuke to Mary D. Nichols, the state's senior clean air official. “The purpose of this letter is to put California on notice” that its deal with automakers “appears to be inconsistent with federal law,” the letter read.

The letter asserts that California is overstepping its authority under the Clean Air Act, which allows it to write statewide air pollution rules, by attempting to set fuel economy standards and to influence regulations nationwide.  Those powers, the letter says, are “squarely vested” with Congress.

An E.P.A. spokesman referred questions about the investigation to the Justice Department.

Governor Gavin Newsom of California said in a statement his state would “remain undeterred.”

“The Trump administration has been attempting and failing to bully car companies for months now,” Governor Newsom said. “California stands up to bullies and will keep fighting for stronger clean car protections that protect the health and safety of our children and families.”

If the Justice Department decides to take action against the car companies as a result of the investigation, anti-trust experts said, its lawyers would most likely argue that, by agreeing to a tougher standard than federal law requires, the companies could end up imposing a more expensive range of cars for sale nationwide.

“That anti-competitive theory relies on the idea that it is improper to agree to do more than what is required by the federal government,” said Nicholas S. Bryner, a professor at Louisiana State University who specializes in environmental law.

“Given that California has the legal authority to create emissions rules that are stricter than federal rules, this case doesn't make any sense,” Mr. Bryner said. “From an environmental perspective, this move seems designed to intimidate California and the automakers that signed onto the deal.”

Other legal experts and people close to the Trump administration agreed that the investigation was meant as a show of force to companies that have displeased the president.

“These are four car companies standing in the way of something the president wants to do,” said Richard Revesz, a professor of environmental law at New York University. “Now the enormous prosecutorial power of the federal government is brought to bear against them. This should make any large companies very nervous.”

He said the Justice Department investigation was surprising because the agreement between California and the auto companies has not yet been signed or legally formalized. “It is extremely unusual for a prosecutor to investigate a deal that hasn't even been signed,” Mr. Revesz said.

Myron Ebell, who led the administration's E.P.A. transition team and who now heads the energy program at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an industry-funded research organization, said antitrust laws were often used as a “shot across the bow to get the attention of corporations.”

“The anti-trust statutes give the government quite a lot of power to threaten companies with anti-collusion charges,” Mr. Ebell said.

The investigation appears to have already had an effect. Another auto company, Mercedes-Benz, had been poised to join the California agreement. But after the German government learned of the federal investigation into the other companies that had signed on, it warned Mercedes not to join, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke anonymously about it because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.

The original Obama-era standards would have required automakers to roughly double the fuel economy of their new cars, pickup trucks and SUVs by 2025. That would have meant manufacturing vehicles that would average roughly 54 miles per gallon.

The agreement reached between California and the four automakers, which account for about 30 percent of the United States auto market, allows for slightly lower fuel economy, requiring an average fleetwide fuel economy of 51 miles per gallon by 2026. California has legal authority under the Clean Air Act to write air pollution rules that go beyond the federal government's.

In comparison, the Trump administration's plan would roll back those standards to about 37 miles per gallon.

Automakers had feared that the rift would split the domestic market — with California and the 13 other states that follow its lead enforcing one set of standards, and the rest of the country following the more lenient federal standards — resulting in a messy patchwork of regulations requiring two separate lineups of vehicles.

To avert that outcome, the four automakers entered secretive negotiations with California to agree on standards that would apply to vehicles sold nationwide. Some of their peers have been more cautious, saying they fear retribution from an unpredictable administration.

The Trump administration's plan would have immense climate effects. Assuming that the plan is finalized and survives the expected legal challenges, cars and trucks in the United States would emit an extra 321 million to 931 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere between now and 2035 as a result of the weaker rules, according to an analysis by the research firm Rhodium Group.

“The motivation for the anti-trust suit is to prevent car companies from voluntarily fighting climate change by limiting pollution,” said Ann Carlson, a professor of environmental law at the U.C.L.A. School of Law. “So it's hard to call the D.O.J. position ‘in the interest of consumers’.”

Honda, Ford and BMW confirmed that they had been contacted in the matter by the Justice Department and said they were cooperating. Volkswagen declined to comment.

A BMW spokesman, Mathias Schmidt, said in an email the company was looking forward to explaining the California agreement's “benefits to consumers and the environment.”


Katie Benner and Jack Ewing contributed reporting to this story.

Hiroko Tabuchi is a climate reporter for The New York Times, based in New York. She previously wrote for the paper on Japanese economics, business and technology from Tokyo. In 2013, Ms. Tabuchi was part of the team awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting “for its penetrating look into business practices by Apple and other technology companies that illustrates the darker side of a changing global economy for workers and consumers.” In 2011, Ms. Tabuchi was part of a team whose coverage of the tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting. Ms. Tabuchi came to The New York Times in 2008 after a year as a Tokyo correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, where she covered an eclectic beat ranging from politics and labor issues to fashion and consumer culture. Prior to The Wall Street Journal, she spent three years as a reporter at the Tokyo bureau of the Associated Press. She is a native of Kobe, Japan, and is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Coral Davenport covers energy and environmental policy, with a focus on climate change, from The New York Times' Washington bureau. She has covered these issues since 2006, reporting for Congressional Quarterly, Politico and National Journal before joining The New York Times in 2013. Her coverage at The N.Y. Times has included reporting from atop the Greenland ice sheet, breaking the news of Volkswagen's illegal use of software devices to evade pollution regulations, and a 2016 interview with President Obama about his efforts to build an environmental legacy. Before covering environmental policy, she worked as a freelance reporter and food and travel writer in Athens, Greece, covering culinary trends, arts and culture, the economy, terrorism and security, and the 2004 Athens Olympics for publications from the Christian Science Monitor to Conde Nast Traveler. She got her start at the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, after graduating from Smith College with a degree in English literature.

• A version of this article appears in The New York Times on Saturday, September 7, 2019, on page A1 of the New York print edition with the headline: “U.S. Investigates Emissions Pledge”.


Related to this topic:

 • White House Prepares to Revoke California's Right to Set Tougher Pollution Rules (September 5, 2019)

 • 84 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump (June 2, 2019)

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