SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Gov. Gavin Newsom called the reported end to a federal antitrust probe into a deal the state made with four automakers over tailpipe emission standards "a victory for anyone who cares about the rule of law and clean air."
Newsom was reacting to reports in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and other news outlets quoting unnamed sources that the Justice Department probe had been closed with no findings of antitrust violations by the Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., BMW AG and Volkswagen AG in their agreement with California air quality officials.
"These 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 said in a press release. "This is a big loss for the President and his weaponization of federal agencies – and a victory for anyone who cares about the rule of law and clean air."
The deal reached in July would bypass the Trump administration's push to relax pollution and mileage standards nationwide that were set by the Obama administration.
The administration claimed the extra expense to comply with the requirements would raise the price of new cars, making them unaffordable and depriving buyers of new safety technology. Many experts, including former EPA engineers, challenge the administration's argument.
California regulators said their deal delays by one year the new-vehicle fuel efficiency requirements approved under the Obama administration for model years 2022 through 2025. That means the fleet of new vehicles would have to average around 36 miles per gallon in real-world driving by 2026.
The deal also slightly slows the rate of growth in the early years "to provide additional lead time" for the auto industry.
The four automakers see the California agreement as "insurance" to provide some certainty to the industry and the state no matter who wins the 2020 presidential elections, according to a person familiar with the talks who asked not to be identified because details of the negotiations haven't been made public.
The four automakers represent only about 30% of U.S. new-vehicle sales.
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