An investigation is underway by the United States Department of Justice to determine if an agreement between California and four automakers to implement state standards for emissions is a violation of federal antitrust laws.
Makan Delrahim, the chief of the anti-trust division mailed letters to each of the lawmakers in question on August 28 that explained their agreement with California was being reviewed for possible violations. The companies were also informed that no decision had yet been made in the matter.
The announcement comes at a time when the Trump administration has doubled down on attempts to eliminate controls the previous administration established for emissions standards. According to CNBC, the current investigation by the DOJ is also seen as a precursor to the prolonged legal battle with California over the state’s role in setting its own emissions standards.
The companies in question, Volkswagon AG, BMW AG, Honda Motor Co., and Ford Motor Co. reported the deal they struck with California allowed them to adopt lower standards than were necessary under the rules established by Obama. However, these standards were higher than what is mandated by the Trump administration.
The automakers were acting in direct defiance of an attempt by Trump and his administration to take away the right of California to set their own emissions standards to fight climate change. The automakers fear the effects of a longterm legal battle over the matter and want to avoid a patchwork of requirements that differ from state to state.
The Department of Justice offered no comment on Friday. It is expected that officials with the DOJ will soon meet with the four automakers at the center of the conflict to gather more information about their agreement with California.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker for the House of Representatives, characterized the investigation as a sham on the part of the Justice Department and urged the department to turn their attention to enforcing antitrust laws where violations actually exist.
One government official who is in favor of the DOJ actions says that California has enlisted the help of a group of irresponsible automakers to help the state push failed initiatives on the rest of America.
It is expected that the final approval necessary to roll back the standards set by the Obama administration will take place in the coming weeks. This will also eliminate the ability of states like California to set their own emissions standards unless a court later decides otherwise.