Ex-California governor slams GM for backing Trump on tailpipe emissions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former California Governor Jerry Brown slammed General Motors Co on Tuesday for siding with the Trump administration in its bid to bar California from setting its own fuel efficiency and tailpipe emission rules for passenger cars and trucks.

“It’s really something at this very moment when California is burning that General Motors jumps on the bandwagon as Trump’s lapdog to join the opposition to undercut California’s rules,” Brown said, referencing the wildfires currently besieging California.

In a joint filing Monday in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals - made together with Toyota Motor Corp, Hyundai Motor Co, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and several other automakers - GM said it backed the administration in its closely-watched clash with California over fuel economy standards.

With the No. 1 U.S. automaker as its ally, the filing marked a victory for the Trump administration in what critics have described as one of its most harmful efforts to roll back regulations designed to fight climate change.

In September, the administration said it would revoke California’s authority to set strict car pollution rules that nearly two dozen states have adopted. Those states, including New York, New Mexico and Minnesota, sued the administration to prevent Trump from blocking the California standard.

Brown deviated from prepared testimony before a House hearing about the effects of President Donald Trump’s rollback of Obama-era fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, which were based on California’s standard, to call out GM for fighting efforts to combat climate change.

GM and other automakers asked to intervene in the lawsuit arguing the administration’s rule provided “vehicle manufacturers with the certainty that states cannot interfere with federal fuel economy standards.”

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They broke with other major automakers including Ford Motor Co, Honda Motor Co and Volkswagen AG VOWG_p.DE, which did not intervene on the administration's side after announcing a voluntary deal with California in July on emissions rules.

Brown said this was the third time GM has taken action against California’s air pollution and vehicle emissions rules.

“Now they come for the third round and they join in a shameless effort to protect their short term profits,” said the former governor, who served four terms - two in the 1970s and between 2011 and January 2019.

Over the last few weeks, the Trump administration has gone after California on several fronts. It has accused the state of failing to enforce the U.S. Clean Air Act and threatened to withdraw billions of dollars in federal highway funds in response.

Last week, the Department of Justice sued California for entering into a climate agreement with Canada’s Quebec province that links their respective carbon cap-and-trade programs.

Brown, who recently created a climate change partnership here with Chinese officials at the University of California, said the United States will fall behind China and the EU on the deployment of electric vehicles.

“The combustion car is going the way of the dodo bird. You have to get with it or get out of the way,” he said.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Tom Brown