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The Golden Gate Bridge. Photo: Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

The EPA signaled last month that it would make good on a longstanding promise to roll back Obama-era vehicle fuel-economy standards, a historic bargain struck between the Obama administration, the auto industry and the state of California in 2010.

Why it matters: In response, California and 16 other states (plus the District of Columbia) fired a first shot across the bow on Tuesday, challenging the April announcement in court. This lawsuit portends a protracted legal fight over the future of the country's fuel-economy standards and the ability of states to set their own.

The 2010 deal harmonized state greenhouse gas emission standards and national fuel-efficiency standards, resolved contentious litigation over California’s ability to set more stringent standards and put the U.S. on a path to ramp up mileage efficiency for the nation's vehicle fleet.

Under that compromise, made official in 2013, mileage standards for passenger cars and light trucks rose slowly through 2017, and would rise more sharply over the next several years, reaching an average of nearly 55 miles per gallon by 2025.

The EPA said in April it would revoke Obama's January 2017 “midterm evaluation,” which concluded the auto industry could and should comply with the 2022–2025 standards. Instead, the EPA now proposes to develop lower, "more appropriate” standards. The freeze would have a significant, negative impact on both the California and global climate, due more to the slowing of green-technology innovation and adoption than the immediate effects of the lowered standards.

What's next: The EPA is likely to ask that the lawsuit be dismissed because the agency has not yet finalized new standards subject to judicial review. Meanwhile, the states might argue that the court should enjoin any such development until the question of the new midterm assessment's legality is resolved.

Deborah A. Sivas is the director of the Environmental Law Clinic at Stanford Law School.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19 — Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate.
  4. World: Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Vulnerable Democrats: Less Trump talk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Vulnerable House Democrats are convinced they need to talk less about the man who helped them get elected: President Trump.

Why it matters: Democrats are privately concerned nationalizing the 2022 mid-terms with emotionally-charged issues — from Critical Race Theory to Donald Trump's role in the Jan. 6 insurrection — will hamstring their ability to sell the local benefits of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan tributes flood in for "giant of the Senate" Bob Dole

Then-Vice President Joe Biden and former Sen. Bob Dole at an event put on by the World Food Program where he was awarded the first “McGovern-Dole Leadership Award” in December 2013. Photo: Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call

Republican and Democratic politicians, including former Senate colleagues, are sharing condolences and memories commemorating the life of Bob Dole, who passed away at 98 on Sunday morning.

The big picture: Dole, the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, was the longest serving Republican leader in the Senate until 2018, when current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell surpassed his record.