White House ends Calif., au­tomaker probe

Antelope Valley Press - - BUSINESS -

WASH­ING­TON (AP) — The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has ended its an­titrust probe into a deal be­tween Cal­i­for­nia and four of the world’s big­gest automakers, af­ter fail­ing to find that the com­pa­nies’ con­duct vi­o­lated the law.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which started last fall, had aimed to de­ter­mine whether an­titrust laws were vi­o­lated by Ford, Honda, Volk­swa­gen and BMW in reach­ing the July deal with Cal­i­for­nia. Un­der the deal, the automakers planned to com­ply with pol­lu­tion and re­lated mileage re­quire­ments es­tab­lished by Cal­i­for­nia that are tougher than the fed­eral stan­dards sought by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment didn’t find con­duct vi­o­lat­ing the law and has closed the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, a per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter told The As­so­ci­ated Press on Fri­day. The per­son spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they weren’t au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly.

In Septem­ber, the ad­min­is­tra­tion re­voked Cal­i­for­nia’s au­thor­ity to set auto mileage stan­dards, as­sert­ing that only the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has the power to reg­u­late green­house gas emis­sions and fuel econ­omy. Top Cal­i­for­nia of­fi­cials and en­vi­ron­men­tal groups took le­gal ac­tion to stop the roll­back.

Democrats accused the ad­min­is­tra­tion of us­ing an­titrust pow­ers to tar­get po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. A top Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cial de­fended the probe be­fore Congress and de­nied any po­lit­i­cal mo­ti­va­tion or in­flu­ence from the White House.

Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Gavin New­som, a Demo­crat, said Fri­day that the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s “trumped-up charges were al­ways a sham — a bla­tant at­tempt by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to pre­vent more automakers from join­ing Cal­i­for­nia and agree­ing to stronger emis­sions stan­dards.”

New­som called the clos­ing of the probe “a big loss for the pres­i­dent and his weaponiza­tion of fed­eral agen­cies.”

Cal­i­for­nia’s au­thor­ity to set its own, tougher emis­sions stan­dards dates back to a waiver is­sued by Congress dur­ing pas­sage of the Clean Air Act in 1970. The state has long pushed automakers to adopt more fuel-ef­fi­cient pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles that emit less pol­lu­tion. About a dozen states and the District of Columbia also fol­low Cal­i­for­nia’s fuel econ­omy stan­dards.

The deal struck by the state and the automakers by­passed the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan to freeze emis­sions and fuel econ­omy stan­dards adopted un­der Pres­i­dent Obama at 2021 lev­els.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this Jan. 5, 2016, file photo, traf­fic crosses the Golden Gate Bridge in the rain in this view from Sausal­ito.

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