Senators call for more automakers to join emissions deal with California

Senators call for more automakers to join emissions deal with California
© Greg Nash

A pair of Democratic senators are among those calling for more automakers to join four car companies that have already pledged to meet stronger tailpipe emissions standards, despite the Trump administration’s effort to roll back regulations.

“Four auto companies demonstrated real courage to work with California and other states to determine a responsible alternative,” said Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperInstead of raising the gas tax, stop wasting money on frivolous projects To stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill Overnight Energy: Trump tweets he's revoking California's tailpipe waiver | Move comes as Trump visits state | California prepares for court fight | Climate activist Greta Thunberg urges lawmakers to listen to scientists MORE (D-Del.), ranking member of the House Environment and Public Works Committee, on a call with reporters Wednesday.

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“The other auto companies, about a dozen, they remain silent in the face of today’s reckless announcement. You don’t have to stay stuck in neutral.”

Carper, along with Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySanders: 'Damn right we will' have a job for every American Democrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Ocasio-Cortez taps supporters for donations as former primary opponent pitches for Kennedy MORE (D-Mass.), California Air and Resources Board (CARB) Chairwoman Mary Nichols and Margo Oge, former director of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Transportation and Air Quality, said now was the opportunity for more automakers to join in with Honda, Volkswagen, Ford and BMW of North America, all carmakers who announced a partnership with the Golden State in July to produce cars that meet higher emissions reduction standards.

The call came as President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE tweeted Wednesday that the administration will be revoking California’s right to set its own car emissions standards under the Clean Air Act. The announcement is likely to create intense uncertainty for the car industry, which has long favored one unified emissions plan that aligns with California's waiver rights.

“None of California’s tailpipe emissions waivers have ever been revoked. This is a vindictive, oil-soaked power grab by the Trump administration,” said Markey. 

“The Trump administration is now squarely set on a courtroom collision course, one I think is clear the Trump administration will lose. But in the meantime, the big losers are American drivers, American industry and the only big winner is Big Oil," he added.

Oge called Trump’s announcement Wednesday “misguided.”

“Car companies want certainty. What’s going to happen now is the car industry is going to be in courts,” she said. “I’m proud of car companies working with California. There is no reason for other companies to not do the same.”

The National Automobile Dealers Association, a group that represents several franchised new-car dealers in the U.S., said Wednesday that they supported Trump’s decision.

“NADA believes that the regulation of fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions should be done at the federal level for the entire country. Congress granted this authority exclusively to EPA and [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] NHTSA, and that is where it should remain – regardless of who is in the White House,” said CEO Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchDemocrats see John Bolton as potential star witness Democrats plow ahead as Trump seeks to hobble impeachment effort Democrats claim new momentum from intelligence watchdog testimony MORE in a statement Wednesday.

“America’s franchised auto dealers continue to support continuous improvements in the fuel economy of the nation’s new-vehicle fleet, as well as federal fuel economy standards that help keep new vehicles affordable. If we lose affordability, we will lose new-vehicle sales. And if we lose new-vehicle sales, all we do is keep Americans in older, less safe and less fuel-efficient cars and trucks longer, and shift our nation’s environmental objectives into reverse.”

In tweeting his announcement Wednesday, President Trump mentioned lower costs and safety as two reasons for the administration’s proposed weakened emissions standards.

“The Trump Administration is revoking California’s Federal Waiver on emissions in order to produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER,” Trump tweeted.

Nichols, who played an integral part in negotiating for California's waiver rights with the Trump administration, said Wednesday’s announcement was more than politics at play.

“This is not just about the fight for climate change, although it is a fight against climate change. It’s also the fact that California now, and about half the American public all over the country, is enforcing standards that are designed to prevent millions of people from suffering from the average effects of air pollution and smog, including ... increased asthma attacks on children,” she said on the call.

“[The Trump administration] makes it look like it’s just some political fight between California and the federal government. I want to make sure people understand it’s much more than that.”