WASHINGTON -- Four major automakers said they reached a voluntary agreement with the state of California on fuel efficiency rules, bypassing a Trump administration effort to strip the state of the authority to fight climate change by setting its own standards.
California and other states had vowed to enforce stricter emissions standards put in place by the Obama administration after President Donald Trump proposed rolling back the federal rules. Automakers had worried that years of court battles between the state and federal governments could create uncertainty for manufacturers.
The California compromise proposal is more stringent than Trump's proposal but looser than the Obama-era rule.
The Trump administration quickly dismissed the move.
“Today’s announcement from CARB has no impact on EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act,” Michael Abboud, an EPA spokesman, said in an email. “This voluntary framework is a PR stunt that does nothing to further the one national standard that will provide certainty and relief for American consumers.”
California, the most populous U.S. state, accounts for about 12 percent of U.S. vehicle sales, and if the administration recognizes the deal it would allow automakers to operate under one set of national rules.
"Ensuring that America’s vehicles are efficient, safe and affordable is a priority for us all," Ford Motor Co., BMW AG, Volkswagen Group and Honda Motor Co. said Thursday in a joint statement. They said the accord could help maintain a nationwide set of fuel efficiency requirements.
Seeking regulatory certainty
The automakers "didn't want to face the expense, distraction and the bad publicity that comes from being part of a big rollback on clean cars," Mary Nichols, who chairs the California Air Resources Board, told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday. She said the companies sought regulatory certainty and had agreed not to legally challenge California's vehicle regulatory authority.
Nichols said other automakers could also adopt the compromise if they choose. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said in a statement the deal demonstrates the Obama era rules needed revising but added it "looked forward to reviewing the details of this agreement."
General Motors, in its statement, reiterated its ongoing efforts to seek "zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion."
"The pathway includes continuously improving fuel economy and our commitment to an all-electric future," the statement to Reuters said. "Our focus remains on working with all parties on a solution that would involve a 50-state solution and a national electric vehicle program."