Auto group fights transparency ‘violation’ in Calif. lawsuit

Source: By Jennifer Hijazi, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Attorneys for the Coalition for Sustainable Automotive Regulation (CSAR) yesterday brushed away environmental interests’ concerns that the auto group violated transparency rules in its support of the Trump administration’s move to prevent California from setting its own requirements for greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.

“The Coalition transparently listed each of its members — not only some, as Petitioners suggest — in the first few paragraphs of its motion to intervene,” the group wrote in a filing yesterday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“The Coalition has made no attempt to conceal this information from the Court or the public, and not least from Petitioners themselves,” the filing said.

CSAR is an offshoot of the Association of Global Automakers, a trade organization whose members include Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co.

Court rules stipulate that groups that enter litigation must share information about their parent companies and major shareholders, but trade groups are exempt from those requirements.

Environmental groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists and Center for Biological Diversity, which first launched the lawsuit over the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s proposal to preempt California’s program under the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act, said CSAR was an “ad hoc” group and that its original disclosure was “deficient.”

“CSAR must file along with its motion to intervene a separate statement disclosing the names of all association members that have issued shares or debt securities to the public,” the green groups said last week (E&E News PM, Nov. 12).

The auto coalition’s filing yesterday included a roster of members — such as Mitsubishi Motors Corp., Mazda Motor Corp. and Global Automakers — that were listed deep in its original disclosure.

Though CSAR included the new statement, it said it did nothing wrong in categorizing itself as a trade organization, contrary to the environmental groups’ assertions.

“The Coalition satisfies the characteristics of an unincorporated trade association under this Rule, and therefore was not required to list the names of its members in its corporate disclosure statement,” the group said.

The case, Union of Concerned Scientists v. NHTSA is just one challenge against the Department of Transportation’s proposal to block California’s ability to impose tailpipe emissions standards that are stronger than those set by the federal government.

Environmentalists’ fight in the D.C. Circuit runs parallel to lawsuits circulating in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, due to questions over the proper venue for the case.

Though CSAR supports the move to scrap California’s historic program, the litigation has revealed a split in automakers’ sentiments about the policy move.

The group’s membership does not include companies like Honda Motor Co. Ltd., which does not support walking back the Golden State’s ability to set separate emission standards.