Mary D. Nichols, California's top air pollution regulator, told the Washington Post, "What we have here is a statement of principles meant to reach out to the federal government to move them off the track that they seem to be on and onto a more constructive track".
The move undercuts one of the Trump administrations' planned climate policy rollbacks, according to the newspaper.
Mary Nichols, who chairs the California Air Resources Board, told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday that the four automakers sought regulatory certainty and had agreed not to legally challenge the state's vehicle regulatory authority.
The automakers, in a joint statement, said the deal was reached in part by a desire to keep vehicles affordable and be good environmental stewards. (The Obama-era rule aimed for a almost five-mile-per-gallon annual increase, with the goal breaking 50 miles per gallon by model year 2025.) Automakers will also have "flexibility in how they meet each year's emissions goal", according to The Washington Post. A dozen states follow California's lead on emissions rules, and Canada has recently agreed to as well. The new deal, according to Bergquist at the Auto Alliance, acknowledges that the Obama-era standards were "not attainable and need to be adjusted".
In a statement announcing the deal, California Governor Gavin Newsom said, "Few issues are more pressing than climate change, a global threat that endangers our lives and livelihoods.I now call on the rest of the auto industry to join us, and for the Trump administration to adopt this pragmatic compromise instead of pursuing its regressive rule change". EPA spokesperson Michael Abboud sniffed, "This voluntary framework is a PR stunt that does nothing to further the one national standard that will provide certainty and relief for American consumers". The administration argued that federal law preempts states from setting their own rules.
The agreement comes as talks have broken down between California and federal officials over the EPA's plans to freeze standards at about 37 mpg through 2026 and to revoke California's longstanding right to set its own tighter emissions standards. The administration also argued that the tougher Obama rules would make newer cars unaffordable, forcing drivers to use older, less safe, and environmentally unfriendly vehicles.More news: Supreme Court OKs border wall construction amid legal fight
More news: Twin 1-Year-Olds Die Inside Hot New York City Car
More news: Alphabet earnings suggest Pixel 3a is making up for Pixel 3 flop
Ford, BMW, Honda and Volkswagen signed a deal with California's air pollution regulator to meet more stringent pollution and mileage standards than the Trump administration is proposing.
The deal extends credits for building electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel vehicles and also hikes the cap for winning credits for fuel efficiency improvements not captured by traditional testing.
"These terms will provide our companies much-needed regulatory certainty by allowing us to meet both federal and state requirements with a single national fleet, avoiding a patchwork of regulations while continuing to ensure meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions", it said.
"A 50-state solution has always been our preferred path forward and we understand that any deal involves compromise", the automakers' statement said. Seventeen states sued in June to protect the emission standards. Those efforts have had little sway so far on the White House, which rejected a plea by 17 carmakers last month to work out a compromise with California.
The Trump administration reacted angrily to the end run around its proposal to roll back both current USA and California standards, with an EPA spokesman calling the deal a "PR stunt".
Alan Baum, a Detroit-area consultant who does work for the auto industry and environmental groups, said the deal is clearly created to get the rest of the auto industry on board and to force the Trump administration to the bargaining table with California.