Overnight Energy: Trump officials warn California car pollution deal could violate the law | DOJ investigating automakers over emissions agreement | Dem wants probe of Interior's new FOIA rules

Overnight Energy: Trump officials warn California car pollution deal could violate the law | DOJ investigating automakers over emissions agreement | Dem wants probe of Interior's new FOIA rules
© Greg Nash


FIRST--Trump administration warns California its tailpipe deal could violate federal law:

The Trump administration sent a warning to California officials Friday, stating that a recent agreement the state made with automakers over tailpipe pollution could violate the law.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation offered the warning in a joint letter to the head of the California Air and Resources Board (CARB) that said its “framework” agreement with four car manufacturers could be a problem.

“The purpose of this letter is to put California on notice that this framework agreement appears to be inconsistent with federal law,” the letter from DOT and EPA’s chief counsels wrote.


The administration is arguing that the state lacked authority under the Clean Air Act to set fuel economy standards in conjunction with the car makers.

“Congress has squarely vested the authority to set fuel economy standards for new motor vehicles, and nationwide standards for [greenhouse gas] vehicle emissions, with the federal government, not with California or any other state,” the letter read.

Mary Nichols, the CARB chairwoman, announced in July that the state had reached an agreement with BMW, Ford, Volkswagen and Honda over the emissions standards for future cars. The news came as the Trump administration is working to finalize a national fuel economy standard that is expected to weaken tailpipe emissions standards.

California has long argued that under the Clean Air Act, it has an exemption to set higher emissions standards due to the state’s history of poor air quality. More than a dozen other states have adopted California’s heightened standards.

CARB did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomWhy Caitlyn Jenner should not be dismissed San Francisco lawmakers vote to make home of city's first legally married same-sex partners a landmark Woman charged with starting fire that burned 63,000 acres in California MORE compared the Trump administration's tactics to those of a bully.

Read more on the fight here.


THEN—The Wall Street Journal reported that the Justice Department is investigating whether Ford, Volkswagen, Honda, BMW 'violated federal competition law': The Justice Department is investigating several top automakers over an agreement the companies struck with California to honor the state's emissions standards, which are stricter than those set by the Trump administration.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Honda, BMW, Volkswagen and Ford are the targets of an antitrust investigation into whether the four companies violated the law by agreeing to follow emissions standards set by California, which conflict with the Trump administration's plans to roll back emissions standards.

The investigation, still in its early stages, reportedly centers around whether the companies' agreement with California unfairly stifles auto sale competition in the state. The review reportedly began without direction from the White House and was instigated by the agency's Antitrust Division, a source told the Journal.

Honda confirmed to The Hill in an email that the company had received the Justice Department's request for information on the deal and pledged to cooperate in a statement.

"We will work cooperatively with the Department of Justice with regard to the recent emissions agreement reached between the State of California and various automotive manufacturers, including Honda," the company said in a statement.

"BMW of North America received a letter from the Department of Justice requesting information concerning a planned CARB [California Air Resources Board] framework agreement with BMW NA and other OEMs," a BMW spokesperson told The Hill in an email. "We look forward to responding to the Department of Justice to explain the planned CARB framework agreement and its benefits to consumers and the environment."

Read the full story.


TGIF! And welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. 

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FOR YOUR AWARENESS: The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee requested that a government watchdog investigate more details in its ongoing probe of the Interior Department’s new public records policy, which allows political appointees to review and potentially withhold documents from release.

In a letter sent to the Interior’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) Friday, the committee asked for the OIG to also look into Interior’s Supplemental Awareness Review process.

The internal policy, unearthed in a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) release, allows Interior deputy solicitor Daniel Jorjani and deputy chief of staff Downey Magallanes five days to review all records requests related to senior staff in the secretary’s office before release.

The supplemental review is in addition to the Interior’s Awareness Review process first put forth as early as May 2018. That policy allows any presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed, non-career senior executive employees the ability to review FOIA requests related to them before they are released publicly.

Critics argue the policies allow political staff unprecedented input into the legitimacy of FOIA matches and that they could lead to documents being unlawfully withheld.

Interior’s IG office agreed in July to investigate the Awareness Review process at the behest of several environmental advocacy groups.

A spokeswoman for Interior’s Office of the Inspector General confirmed Friday that they received the letter signed by committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). Interior did not immediately return a request for comment on the letter.

Read more about the letter.


ON TAP NEXT WEEK: Lawmakers are emerging from August recess next week to a packed schedule. House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOn The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to 498K, hitting new post-lockdown low | House to advance appropriations bills in June, July House to consider anti-Asian hate crimes bill, protections for pregnant workers this month Top Democrat: Bill to boost Capitol security likely to advance this month MORE (D-Md.) plans to bring a vote on three separate bills to block offshore drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Gulf Coast and off the Pacific and Atlantic shorelines.

In the Senate, Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyRepublicans embrace Trump in effort to reclaim Senate Top Senate Democrat announces return of earmarks Senate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban MORE (R-Ala.)  is planning to bring four spending bills up for a vote Thursday, one will circle around energy and water.

Key hearings to keep your eyes on next week include a House hearing Tuesday on the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed national headquarters relocation to Colorado and a House Select Committee on Climate Crisis hearing on manufacturing jobs.



Bill to help PG&E pay wildfire claims shelved in California, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Hog waste fears raised again as Dorian swipes North Carolina, Bloomberg reports.

Hurricane Dorian hits North Carolina, The Hill reports.


ICYMI: Stories from Friday...

-NOAA disavows National Weather Service tweet that contradicted Trump

-Trump administration to allow hunter to import rare black rhino trophy parts

-House requests investigation of Interior political appointees' review of public records

-Justice Dept investigating whether Ford, VW, Honda, BMW 'violated federal competition law'

-EPA sued again for expanding use of pesticide harmful to bees

-Senate to start work on funding bills with shutdown deadline looming