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February 5, 2020 11:15 AM, EST

CARB Chair Chides GM, Toyota for Backing Trump on Fuel Rates

Vehicles drive in traffic down a California freeway in September 2019.Vehicles drive in traffic down a California freeway in September 2019. (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg News)

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California’s top environmental official criticized General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. for backing the Trump administration’s attempt to revoke the state’s authority to regulate auto emissions, saying she hoped car companies had learned by now to work with the powerful agency.

The tough rules California has implemented and enforced for years already have had an impact on automakers, Mary Nichols, the chairman of the state’s Air Resources Board, said Feb. 4 at the BNEF Summit in San Francisco. She believes the regulator deserves some credit for the industry’s plans to field more electric vehicles in the near future.

“We’ve had something to do with that here in California, and I’m pleased with that,” Nichols said. “In the case of General Motors and Toyota, just to name a couple of names, to have them not understand that California had actually helped them in all this in so many ways is disappointing.”

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GM, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and several other carmakers filed legal motions last fall that sided with President Donald Trump’s administration in the court battle over its rule to strip California of the authority to set its own tailpipe-emissions standards. The skirmish is a key aspect of the White House’s move to dismantle tougher fuel economy rules set by the Obama administration.

The clash with California also has fractured the industry. On California’s side are four automakers, including Ford Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co., which last summer agreed to meet rules that would be a compromise between Obama’s standards and Trump’s plans.

In a statement, Toyota said it has consistently supported a single approach for fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards. “We do not believe that there should be different fuel economy standards in different states,” the company said.

GM said it will continue to develop electric vehicles, regardless of what the fuel efficiency standards dictate. “GM remains committed to feasible, year-over-year improvements in conventional fuel economy in addition to our leading investments in electrification,” the company said in a statement.

The dust-up led Nichols to skip her annual visit to the auto industry’s major vehicle show in Los Angeles last fall. She and other environmental officials usually tour the event and talk to executives about their latest technologies.

“I was feeling a little bit like I didn’t want to hang out and sort of have jolly conversations with the companies that were also suing us,” Nichols said.

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