Harris goes after DOJ antitrust probe of automakers over emissions

Harris goes after DOJ antitrust probe of automakers over emissions
© Getty Images

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisPoll: Buttigieg leads Democratic field in Iowa Press: Another billionaire need not apply Saagar Enjeti dismisses Warren, Klobuchar claims of sexism MORE (D-Calif.) sent a letter to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) inspector general Friday requesting he probe the basis for the department's antitrust investigation into four automakers working with California to reduce car emissions.

“In an expression of hostility towards California’s regulatory authority, the Trump administration has launched a multi-pronged assault on California’s framework with the four automakers,” Harris, who is also running for president, wrote to Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

ADVERTISEMENT

Harris added that she has “serious questions about whether federal law enforcement is being used to coerce the four automakers to abandon their efforts to make cleaner, less-polluting vehicles” and asked Horowitz to “investigate the purported grounds for the Justice Department’s investigation of the four automakers.” 

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding Harris’s letter.

The DOJ announced earlier this month that it was opening an antitrust investigation into Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen after the four automakers reached a deal with California to adopt more stringent emissions standards than those proposed by the Trump administration.

While President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse and Senate Dems implore McConnell to sign DACA legislation to protect 'Dreamers' White House stresses 'hearsay' in witness testimony ahead of public impeachment hearings Senior official describes cyber workforce shortage as national security threat MORE has moved to roll back Obama-era emissions standards, California and a host of other states vowed they would enforce stricter limits.

The automakers agreed to regulations that were still looser than those under former President Obama but tighter than the ones proposed by the Trump administration.

Makan Delrahim, the DOJ antitrust chief, said in a letter to the four automakers last month that their agreement with California “may violate federal antitrust laws,” according to documents reviewed by Reuters.

Lawyers at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation added last week in a letter to California Air Resource Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols that the board’s efforts in connection with the agreement “appear to be unlawful and invalid.” 

Federal regulators under the Trump administration have supported freezing emissions standards for new vehicles at 2020 levels through 2026, signaling their final regulation will include a boost to annual efficiency requirements though will still fall short of standards the Obama administration set in 2012.

The Obama-era rules supported a fuel efficiency average of 46.7 miles per gallon by 2025, including average annual increases of about 5 percent, while the Trump administration proposes an average of 37 miles per gallon by 2026.