Car emissions in the spotlight

Source: BY KELSEY TAMBORRINO, Politico • Posted: Monday, June 22, 2020

The Justice Department had concerns that BMW, Ford, Honda and Volkswagen illegally agreed among themselves to adopt California’s stronger emissions standards, the agency said last week in its first substantive explanation of the since-closed investigation. In a letter to Whitehouse, Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Stephen E. Boyd said the probe was “entirely reasonable” since an agreement between the carmakers would violate antitrust law. “To be clear, the Division did not seek to investigate bilateral agreements between individual automakers and the State of California,” Boyd said in the Friday letter. “Rather, it undertook an investigation of whether competing automakers had entered an agreement with each other—a key distinction for antitrust purposes, even if the State of California were a participant.”

— The antitrust division opened the probe in September, around the same time the Trump administration moved to revoke California’s ability to set its own emissions standards. The investigation was blasted by Democrats and California politicians, who alleged the antitrust probe was politically motivated. Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Makan Delrahim defended the decision to open a probe in an op-ed in USA Today but later declined to answer questions about the investigation citing department policy against commenting on ongoing matters. DOJ officially closed the probe in February.

On the schedule: On Wednesday, Delrahim’s former chief of staff, John Elias, is expected to testify before the House Judiciary Committee about the car emissions probe.