Five automakers defend California in lawsuit challenging state’s vehicle emissions authority

WASHINGTON — Ford Motor Co., along with BMW Group, Honda, Volkswagen and Volvo Cars, on Tuesday filed a motion to intervene in a federal lawsuit to support California and defend the EPA’s reinstatement of a waiver that restored the state’s authority to limit vehicle greenhouse gas emissions.

The action comes after a group of 17 Republican attorneys general last month sued the EPA over its decision to reissue a waiver allowing California to set its own auto tailpipe rules and zero-emission vehicle mandates that are more stringent than federal standards.

“Two years ago, after EPA relaxed federal greenhouse gas emission standards, Ford and four other automakers entered into settlement agreements with California to abide by GHG emission standards that were stricter than EPA’s then-relaxed standards,” Steven Croley, Ford’s chief policy officer, said in a press call Tuesday. “We believe that was right then, and we think so today.”

General Motors, which aspires to have an all-electric portfolio by 2035, said it has not filed an intervention. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents the five automakers intervening in the suit as well as GM and other major automakers in the U.S., Innovation said it is not a party to the litigation. Stellantis declined to comment.
The GOP attorneys general, led by Ohio’s Dave Yost, allege the Clean Air Act waiver violates the Constitution’s equal sovereignty doctrine.

In addition to Yost, officials from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia — as well as the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers Association and other biofuels groups — joined the lawsuit challenging the reinstatement.

A coalition of 20 other states, the District of Columbia and the cities of Los Angeles and New York, as well as environmental groups, joined the lawsuit last month in support of the EPA’s action.

The EPA in March reinstated the waiver and withdrew its portion of the interpretation of the Clean Air Act that would prohibit other states from adopting California’s more stringent vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards.

The action was driven by President Joe Biden’s executive order in January 2021 that directed the U.S. Department of Transportation and the EPA to reconsider the Trump administration’s 2019 decision to revoke California’s authority.

The EPA previously granted California the waiver in 2013. At least 16 other states and D.C. have adopted California’s stricter vehicle emissions standards, representing more than one-third of all light-vehicle sales in the U.S., according to the California Air Resources Board.

The board is in the process of developing regulations that would accelerate a transition to ZEVs and strengthen emission standards for new light-duty cars and trucks sold in the state.

In a 2019 lawsuit, California and 23 other states and environmental groups challenged the Trump administration’s decision that federal law prevents California from setting its own rules.

GM, Stellantis, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Toyota, plus the National Automobile Dealers Association, intervened in the lawsuit, with the goal of supporting one national fuel economy and greenhouse gas program.

In November 2020, GM withdrew its support of the Trump administration in the suit. NADA and the remaining automakers withdrew in February 2021.

A handful of automakers — Ford, BMW, Honda, Volkswagen and Volvo — sided with California in 2020 to meet stricter vehicle emissions standards through the 2026 model year.

During his confirmation hearing, EPA chief Michael Regan told U.S. senators he would work to ensure states can set their own standards.

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