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Smog hangs over Los Angeles on June 11, 2019. Photo: Getty Images

A group of 23 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit on Wednesday challenging the Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era fuel efficiency standards.

The big picture: The administration's final rule on the Clean Car Standards was announced in late March, targeting future fuel economy standards and requiring automakers to make improvements of 1.5% annually through 2026, rather than the previously anticipated 5% increase in efficiency requirements.

Why it matters: The long-anticipated lawsuit is arguably one of the most high-profile battles between the Trump administration and Democratic states over environmental regulations, writes Axios' Amy Harder.

  • The administration has argued the new rule will lower car prices and save automakers billions of dollars in regulatory costs.
  • The states, however, argue the measure will increase costs to customers and say it violates laws that require the federal government to regulate environmental standards.
  • The states also argue that the administration "relied on an analysis riddled with errors, omissions, and unfounded assumptions in an attempt to justify their desired result."

What they're saying:

“From the outset, President Trump and his administration have shown absolutely no regard for protecting our environment and fighting climate change. This replacement rule will not only make our air dirtier, putting the health of our children, seniors, and communities at risk, but it will also increase the climate change costs for individual states.”
— Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring in a news release

Our thought bubble: These regulations were the most sweeping climate-change policies from President Obama and hugely impacted automakers. The automakers now find themselves stuck between the administration and states like California, which are leading with more aggressive standards.

What to watch via the New York Times: "The battle is widely expected to reach the Supreme Court."

Go deeper

Newsom addresses DNC from site of California wildfires: "Climate change is real"

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) used his Democratic National Convention address on Thursday to highlight the real-world effects of climate change, speaking just a mile from the site of one of the over 370 wildfires that are currently ravaging his state.

What he's saying: "Well, I confess this is not where I expected to be speaking here tonight," said Newsom, who was originally set to speak at the DNC but remained in California to monitor the fires. "We are just coming off a record heat wave that led to 130 degree temperatures — the highest temperature ever recorded in California."

Congress plots COVID pandemic-era office upgrades

oving crates outside Rep. Elise Stefanik's old office Tuesday. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The House plans to renovate members' suites even though staff are worried about an influx of contractors and D.C. is tightening restrictions on large gatherings, some staffers told Axios.

Why it matters: The Capitol has been closed to public tours since March. Work over the holiday season comes as U.S. coronavirus cases spike, Americans beg for more pandemic assistance and food lines grow.

Trump pressures Barr to release so-called Durham report

Bill Barr. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump and his allies are piling extreme pressure on Attorney General Bill Barr to release a report that Trump believes could hurt perceived Obama-era enemies — and view Barr's designation of John Durham as special counsel as a stall tactic, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Speculation over Barr's fate grew on Tuesday, with just 49 days remaining in Trump's presidency, after Barr gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he said the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

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