Ann Carlson: Trump’s Spite War Against California and the Automakers Ramps Up

Threatening letter, investigation in addition to waiver revocation

September 6, 2019 – Today in the Trump spite wars against California and the four auto manufacturers, we learn that the threat to revoke California’s waiver was only the first salvo from the administration.  As I blogged last night,  the Administration is considering revoking California’s federal waiver to issue pollution standards for cars without simultaneously rolling back tough auto standards issued by the Obama Administration.  I argued that the only explanation for yanking California’s waiver without also rolling back the standards is spite.

More proof of the spite motivation emerged today.  The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the U.S. Department of Justice has initiated an antitrust investigation against the four car companies that have settled with California.  This from an administration that is not known for its zealous enforcement of antitrust laws unless a company angers the President.

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EPA and the Department of Transportation also today released a letter the agency general counsels sent to California air pollution officials putting California “on notice” that its settlement agreement “appears to be inconsistent with federal law.” There may be “legal consequences” from the agreement as a result, threatens the letter, and California should “disassociate itself” from the settlement agreement.  The letter really contains nothing new from a legal perspective but seems designed to intimidate the state into backing down.  Hard to imagine California doing so.

The Golden State and the automakers appear to have really gotten under the President’s very thin skin.

Ann Carlson is the Shirley Shapiro Professor of Environmental Law and the co-Faculty Director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA School of Law.  Professor Carlson is one of the nation’s leading scholars of climate change law and policy.

Legal Planet, a collaboration between faculty at UC Berkeley School of Law and UCLA School of Law, provides insight and analysis on energy and environmental law and policy.  www.legal-planet.org