Art of the deal, California edition

“California will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible,” then-Governor Jerry Brown tweeted when the Trump administration rolled out the proposed rollbacks in August 2018. A year later, the Trump administration’s proposal still hasn’t been finalized, but California has been fighting back with lawsuits in the meantime — and promises more to come

In February 2019, the Trump administration announced that it would stop talks with California, saying California’s air board “failed to put forward a productive alternative.” California’s air board chief Mary Nichols said in a June hearing that wasn’t true, and that the White House had unilaterally cut off conversations.

Automakers pleaded with the two powers to reconcile, but the White House said it still planned to finalize its proposal. Since then, California charted its own detour around the rollbacks. The state cut a deal in July with four major automakers: Honda, Ford, Volkswagen and BMW.

The voluntary agreement is still being hammered out. But broadly, the car companies agreed to follow California’s car rules and recognize the state’s authority. In return, California would essentially give the four companies an extra year to reach greenhouse gas reduction goals. The terms also sweeten the deal for bringing electric vehicles to market by giving carmakers extra credits for deploying clean cars that can count towards their emissions targets. It’s a compromise that trades some immediate greenhouse gas reductions for more development of electric vehicles.

California’s car deal apparently incensed the president, who reportedly called automakers to the White House to coax them into supporting the rollbacks. News that yet more carmakers were considering signing on prompted Trump to tweet:

The latest move against the California deal came in early September, with the U.S. EPA and Department of Transportation asserting that “the so-called ‘framework agreement’ appears to be inconsistent with federal law.” The same day, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Justice started an investigation into whether the four carmakers broke federal competition law. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said California remains undeterred. “The Trump administration has been attempting and failing to bully car companies for months now,” he said in an emailed statement. “California stands up to bullies and will keep fighting for stronger clean car protections that protect the health and safety of our children and families.” 

And the fight continues.