DOJ Ends Investigation Into California’s Clean Car Rules

The Department of Justice ended an antitrust investigation into car manufacturers that sought a cleaner emissions standard with the state of California. The DOJ investigated Ford, Volkswagen, Honda, and BMW, concluding that the companies did not violate any laws through this voluntary agreement. The DOJ began the investigation in September after the car manufacturers made a deal with California to develop cleaner cars than required by federal law.

The Trump Administration rolled back environmental protections implemented by the Obama Administration. The deal was seen as a jab at the Trump administration’s rollback. The deal would have allowed car manufacturers to fulfill the national standard by complying with the tougher state standard.

“These trumped up charges were always a sham – a blatant attempt by the Trump administration to prevent more automakers from joining California and agreeing to stronger emissions standards,” Gavin Newsom, California Governor, said.

The deal with California sets targets similar to that under the Obama Administration’s plan. Other states followed California’s lead. In total, 14 states set tougher emission standards than the new national standard. The federal government attempted to deny California the ability to set its own standards.

The EPA and the Department of Transportation previously opposed the deal. The agencies stated, “[t]his framework agreement appears to be inconsistent with Federal law. Congress has squarely vested the authority to set fuel economy standards for new motor vehicles and nationwide standards for vehicle emissions with the Federal government, not California or any other state.”

However, some car manufacturers have supported Trump’s rollback effort, including General Motors, Toyota, and Fiat Chrysler.