US probes BMW, Volkswagen over California emissions deal | News | DW | 06.09.2019
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US probes BMW, Volkswagen over California emissions deal

Two German automakers have been targeted by an antitrust probe for making a deal to meet tougher emissions standards. Critics have called the probe a "nakedly political use of Justice Department resources."

The US Justice Department on Friday opened an antitrust probe into German automakers Volkswagen and BMW, along with Ford and Honda, over an agreement with the state of California.

Under the deal, the automakers said they would limit tailpipe emissions by 2023 beyond loose recommendations put forward by the White House.

"Those commitments may result in legal consequences given the limits placed in Federal law on California's authority," said a letter co-signed by the general counsels for the US Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

"We recognize California's disagreements with the Federal government's policy proposals in this area, but those policy disagreements cannot justify (California's) pursuit of a regulatory approach that would violate Federal law."

Read more: As Dieselgate scandal widens, will Germany finally tackle transport emissions?

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Critics believe the probe is political

Critics cry foul

Critics have called the probe political, saying it could impede attempts to enact progressive policies to tackle climate change.

The probe "is an appalling, nakedly political, arguably corrupt use of Justice Department resources," said Sean Hecht, who co-heads the Emmett Institute of Climate Change and the Environment at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"The Trump administration has become unhinged as a result of automakers' rational decision to retain emission standards that they have already planned to meet, rather than back regulatory rollbacks that harm them," Hecht said in a tweet.

Read more: US forces Volkswagen to correct fuel economy on almost 100,000 vehicles

'A deal they don't even want'

California's new policy requires new vehicles to meet fuel efficiency standards of at least 50 miles per gallon (4.7 liters per 100 kilometers). Currently, federal law requires automakers to meet a minimum of 37 miles per gallon by 2026. 

California Governor Gavin Newsom threatened legal action if the Trump administration attempted to push through "a deal that automakers don't even want."

The automakers named in the investigation have said they plan to respond appropriately and comply with authorities, according to media reports.

Read more: Do vegans help prevent climate change?

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ls/bk (AFP, dpa)

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