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Trump’s dual threat to California’s car deal

California has vowed to fight back —mostly likely with a lengthy lawsuit.

In a potential blow to California’s fight against climate change, the Trump administration has taken aim at a deal the state made with automakers to cut greenhouse gases in car exhaust.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation warned California Air Resources Board chief Mary Nichols today that the deal “appears to be inconsistent with Federal law.” The move came at the same time as Wall Street Journal report that the Department of Justice is investigating whether four car companies broke competition law by forging their own agreement with California.

The pact was a California defense against the Trump administration’s plans to roll back Obama-era car emissions and gas-mileage rules. Trump has also threatened to stop allowing California to set its own tailpipe standards.

That revocation of California’s regulatory authority may be imminent —and would be a major setback for the state’s long-term ability to combat greenhouse gases in car exhaust. California aims to cut planet-warming greenhouse gases by 40% in the next 10 years, and transportation is the top source of such emissions. 


California has vowed to fight back —mostly likely with a lengthy lawsuit. “If the administration opts to create chaos, they’ll be in court for years with us,” Craig Segall, assistant chief counsel for the California Air Resources Board, anticipating the further federal action. 

In preparation for the rollbacks and the regulatory uncertainties raised by a lengthy court battle, California and the four major automakers —Honda, Ford, BMW, and Volkswagen — cut their own deal in July. California agreed to give the companies more time and flexibility to meet existing greenhouse-gas targets, and the companies agreed to voluntarily follow California’s rules. 

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