Washington — Ford Motor Co. and the US branches of Volkswagen AG, BMW AG, Honda Motor Co., and Volvo Cars Ltd. asking to intervene in a federal lawsuit to retain California’s power under the Clean Air Act to set its own strict emission standards.
It marked the major automaker’s re-entry into the fight that divided the industry under former President Donald Trump, who lifted a California waiver that allowed it to set its own emissions standards, which are generally stricter than the federal government and have far-reaching repercussions. in the US auto industry.
When President Joe Biden took office, he directed the government to reverse the decision and in March, the Environmental Protection Agency restored the waiver.
In mid-May, Republican attorney generals in 17 states challenged the decision in court. Led by Ohio, the lawsuit argues that the waiver violates the US Constitution’s “equal sovereignty” principle. California and 19 other states also joined the lawsuit to defend the power of waiver.
In a motion filed Tuesday, automakers listed their multi-billion dollar commitment to electrify their fleets. California’s emissions regulations have “helped to maintain a level playing field” as industry builds low-emission technologies, they wrote.
“Today, electrification is an innovation that will remove emissions from vehicles while also providing drivers with performance, power and digital integration that was never possible before,” the company wrote. “Confirming the validity of the Waiver Decree will promote stability and regulatory certainty while the industry goes electric.”
Ford General Counsel and Chief Policy Officer Steven Croley and Bob Holycross, the company’s vice president of sustainability, environmental and safety engineering, reiterated that the automaker is working on a long timeline to ensure vehicles can meet emissions standards.
“This is the right thing to do for people and the planet. But it’s also critical in the industry for its success moving forward,” Croley said Tuesday. “This move brings us closer to the future of zero-emissions transportation. It also creates regulatory stability … for the industry.”
Regulatory stability and predictability have long been at the center of debate over whether California should retain its power to set standards. Trump announced his administration would repeal the rule in 2019, arguing that a unified national standard would sell more cars and create more jobs.
It started a legal battle that split the US auto industry into two camps: one siding with environmental groups in a lawsuit challenging Trump’s policies, and one siding with the government.
California is the most populous state in the US and accounts for about 11% of all new car sales in the US, according to the National Association of Car Dealers.
This is a large market with a tendency for stricter environmental regulations, which more than a dozen countries have chosen to follow. That means the state wields great influence over the US auto industry, which often designs vehicles sold nationwide to conform to Californian standards in an effort to streamline production.
General Motors Co., Stellantis NV, Toyota Motor Corp. and 10 other automakers backed Trump in changing the rules. GM dropped the lawsuit shortly after Biden was elected in November 2020 as he worked with the administration to secure federal funding for the industrial EV transition, and other automakers followed suit in February 2021.
The five automakers seeking to intervene in Tuesday’s lawsuit committed by 2020 to sticking with California standards.
In January, GM recognized California’s authority to set its own vehicle emission standards, but said Tuesday it had not filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit. Stellantis declined to comment, while Toyota did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the leading advocacy group representing automakers in the US, noted that it is not a party to the litigation and did not comment further on Tuesday’s filing.
California has had the power to set its own air quality standards since the Clean Air Act of 1970 recognized southern California’s unique problem with smog. Every presidential administration before Trump has granted a state waiver to set stricter car emission standards except for former President George W. Bush, according to the Los Angeles Times.