General Motors is switching sides, moving to support California in its efforts to fight attempts by the Trump administration to revoke the state’s ability to set its own emissions rules in court.
The Golden State’s rules are more stringent than federal mandates, even though the current administration did come back with slightly tougher rules than the freeze it was initially in favor of — and likely to be revised back up to the much loftier rules put in place by the Obama administration when President-elect Joe Biden assumes office.
During the fight that ensued, automakers split into two camps: for and against. GM was in the “against” camp, saying that a single national standard should be implemented. The Detroit-based auto company wasn’t alone, joined by Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, Hyundai, Kia and others. Toyota announced it is reviewing its position on the matter. The other side, which eventually reached a compromise deal with the state, includes Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and others.
However, in recent months, GM CEO Mary Barra has been banging the drum to be the dominant EV maker in the world and pushing to become carbon neutral. That message is in conflict with support of the Trump administration’s lawsuit. Especially in light of her recent announcement that it’s going to spend $27 billion – up from $20 billion – in the next five years on electric and autonomous vehicle development.
During that time, the company expects to launch 30 all-electric vehicles, which will account for 40% of the company’s entire line-up. More than 65% of those new launches will be available in North America. The company also sought to work with Biden on his goal of advancing EV development and sales.
“We believe the ambitious electrification goals of the president-elect, California, and General Motors are aligned, to address climate change by drastically reducing automobile emissions,” Barra said in a statement.
“We are confident that the Biden Administration, California, and the U.S. auto industry, which supports 10.3 million jobs, can collaboratively find the pathway that will deliver an all-electric future. To better foster the necessary dialogue, we are immediately withdrawing from the preemption litigation and inviting other automakers to join us.”
California has been joined by 22 other states and the District of Columbia to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The plaintiffs are asking the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to block the Trump administration from stripping it of its long-standing authority to set its own fuel-efficiency standards on cars and trucks.
The filing also includes a petition asking the court to review the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s effort to preempt California’s right to set tailpipe emission standards
California enjoys an exemption under the 1970 Clean Air Act that allows it to get a federal waiver to set more stringent air pollution standards; the EPA granted the state a waiver to set tailpipe emission standards in 2009 by the Obama administration. The Trump administration moved to revoke that exemption in September 2019.