The U.S. Justice Department has launched an antitrust probe into four automakers that agreed with each other to follow stricter emissions standards than those proposed by the Trump administration, according to a report Friday.
Honda, BMW, Volkswagen and Ford are the targets of that probe, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Investigators are probing whether the four companies violated the law by agreeing to follow the tighter emissions standards set by California.
Still in its early stages, the investigation centers around whether the automakers’ pact with California unfairly stifles auto sale competition in the state, according to the Journal.
The Journal also said the probe was initiated by the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division without direction from the White House.
Honda, Ford and BMW confirmed they had been contacted by the Justice Department. In public statements, Honda and BMW both said they will cooperate with the department.
“We look forward to responding to the Department of Justice to explain the planned CARB framework agreement and its benefits to consumers and the environment,” BMW said in a statement.
The Trump administration and California have bitterly feuded over several environmental actions.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra slammed the antitrust probe, making reference to this week’s controversy over Mr. Trump or someone else in the White House apparently marking up a weather map with a Sharpie pen to add a portion of Alabama into an area NOAA had predicted could be impacted by Hurricane Dorian.
“Looks like President Trump is reaching for his Sharpie again, this time against automakers willing to combat auto pollution,” he said in a statement. “Wish he and his administration took antitrust violations seriously and focused on real anti-competitive antitrust behavior.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, called the investigation “frivolous” saying the Trump administration was using the Justice Department for its own political purposes.
“Far from hindering healthy competition, California’s agreement promotes a race-to-the-top among automakers to meet the new emission standards, benefiting consumers, strengthening our economy and protecting our environment,” she said in a statement. “The Department of Justice must end this sham investigation and return to policing actual anticompetitive conduct.”
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