Carper: Automakers should all support voluntary framework deal with California, Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, BMW, and Volvo

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, echoed a new letter sent by Ford Motor Company and encouraged all automakers to follow the lead of Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, BMW, and Volvo and drop litigation against states’ regulatory authority and announce their support for the voluntary agreement with California and 13 other states, including Delaware, that will deliver more greenhouse gas emissions reductions than under the Trump administration’s illegal rollback.

“For four years, nearly every automaker told me that they wanted to see a deal between the Trump administration and the state of California. Automakers urged the administration to govern responsibly and support a 50-state solution that would provide near-term flexibility as the industry moves toward stronger standards. But in those four years, only five automakers have shown the leadership needed to make that a reality.

“With so much at stake – American jobs and the entire auto industry, our nation’s economy and the planet’s climate crisis – five automakers had the courage to buck the Trump administration and choose another way. Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, BMW, and Volvo worked with California to forge a responsible alternative path, one that would promote American jobs, protect clean air, and support the clean cars of the future.

“In a new letter, Ford is calling the rest of the automakers to join that agreement. I echo that call. Actually, since the four automakers’ agreement with California was first announced, I have repeatedly called other automakers and urged them to join it. For more than a year now, I have picked up the phone and told every automaker that staying stuck in neutral or reverse is no longer an option.

“Remaining silent or merely withdrawing support from the outgoing administration’s illegal rollback and challenges to state authority is not enough, not when there is so much at stake. To demonstrate real leadership, automakers should also announce their support for the voluntary agreement led by Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, BMW, and Volvo, and begin to work with the President-elect on rules to make the near- and long-term reductions in emissions from cars and trucks that must be made. Once again, I will say this: staying stuck in neutral or reverse is not an option.”

For four years, Senator Carper met repeatedly with Trump administration officials and urged them to seek common ground and work with automakers and the state of California to strike a deal on fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards.

In July 2019, Ford Motor Company, Honda Motor Company, Volkswagen, and BMW – which together account for about 30 percent of U.S. vehicle sales – reached an agreement with the state of California on standards that would achieve continuous annual reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful air pollutants while saving consumers money.

Despite this, the Trump administration continued to pursue and finalize its rollback. Below is a timeline describing Senator Carper’s oversight on the so-called Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles rules:

  • In October 2018, Senators Carper, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) released documents proving that Congress rejected legislative efforts to preempt or limit California’s authority in 2007;
  • Also in October 2018, Senator Carper urged Secretary Chao and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to abandon plans to dismantle the clean car standards, highlighting a non-exhaustive list of 10 major legal deficiencies in the administration’s proposal;
  • In December 2018, Senators Carper and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) demanded disclosure of the administration’s contacts with the oil industry regarding the fuel economy rule, after reporting revealed details of a covert lobbying campaign driven by fossil fuel groups to weaken fuel economy rules and increase demand for oil consumption;
  • In May 2019, Senator Carper and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) wrote a letter to Administrator Wheeler demanding documents explaining numerous comments from Administrator Wheeler about EPA’s fuel economy rollback that contradict data presented to him by EPA’s own experts (May 2019);
  • In January 2020, Senator Carper led a letter to Paul Ray underscoring the concerns about the rule that were raised by EPA’s own Science Advisory Board. Later in January, following a review of a leaked draft final rule obtained by his office, Senator Carper sent another letter to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Paul Ray, urging him to overhaul or completely abandon the Trump administration’s Part 2 of SAFE Vehicles. In his letter, Senator Carper outlined some of his most serious concerns with the draft final rule which was submitted to OIRA on January 14, 2020, including concerns that it appeared to be incomplete, resulted in costs to consumers that exceed the purported benefits of the rollback, and did not appreciably improve safety, all while adding vast amounts of harmful greenhouse gas pollution to the environment;
  • In March 2020, Senator Carper asked the EPA IG to open an investigation after receiving reports of seemingly purposeful and potentially unlawful efforts on the part of EPA political officials to avoid the standard processes and statutory requirements associated with finalizing the SAFE Vehicles rule, including potential efforts to conceal documents that should eventually be made public. In that letter, Senator Carper also recounted significant concerns EPA officials had with the Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) August 2018 proposed rule, as well as the extensive negative media reports that resulted from the disclosure of EPA’s documented concerns with the proposal; and,
  • In May 2020, Senator Carper urged the EPA IG to expand its investigation after documents obtained by Senator Carper’s office revealed that the previous reports he had shared with the EPA IG were accurate. In addition to efforts to illegally conceal documents that should have been made public when the rule was finalized, Senator Carper provided the EPA IG new documents that revealed significant inaccuracies and technical errors in the final rule that, apparently, EPA officials repeatedly asked DOT officials to correct. Those documents also revealed that EPA officials apparently believed the failure to correct those inaccuracies and errors would make the rule legally vulnerable to challenge—but despite this, DOT officials proceeded. Additionally, those documents showed that EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler requested that sweeping changes be made to the rule after it was signed but before it was published in the Federal Register.