The Oil Industry’s Covert Campaign to Rewrite American Car Emissions Rules

In Iowa, Americans for Prosperity joined the fight over whether to make it easier for gas stations to install chargers for electric vehicles. In Illinois, it discouraged state officials from considering subsidies for electric vehicles.

And last month an Americans for Prosperity representative trekked to a public hearing in Colorado, where regulators were thinking about becoming the 13th state to follow California’s stricter standards. The representative, Shari Shiffer-Krieger, a field director for the group, argued that people in the rugged state wanted SUVs, not tighter emissions rules. “Coloradans deserve much better,” she said.

The oil industry lost that fight. Colorado allied itself with California.

But Americans for Prosperity said fights like these get to the heart of its free-market philosophy. “We believe in a level playing field so all Americans have the equal opportunity to succeed,” said Bill Riggs, a spokesman for the group, in a statement. The organization will keep fighting “mandates that unfairly pick winners and losers in any industry,” he said.

On August 6, a Marathon lobbyist, Stephen D. Higley, emailed a Wisconsin state representative an explainer of American fuel economy law. The memo didn’t mince words.

“It’s a relic,” the memo said, particularly at a time when the United States was “poised to become the largest oil producer in the world.”

The Wisconsin representative, Mike Kuglitsch, participates in the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Koch-funded group that helps companies write model legislation for state lawmakers to use as a basis for their own laws.

Emails obtained by the Times show that Marathon has been working with members of the legislative exchange council to build support for the Trump fuel-efficiency rollback in state legislatures and to denounce California’s power to write its own rules for cars. The emails were made public under Wisconsin’s open records law to Documented, a watchdog group that tracks corporate influence in public policy.