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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The EPA's internal watchdog is opening a probe into how the agency wrote controversial rules that weakened Obama-era carbon emissions standards for cars and light trucks.

Why it matters: The Obama-era emissions and mileage standards that extended into the mid-2020s were a pillar of the former president's climate change agenda.

  • The Trump administration's rewrite has been among the most sprawling and bitter regulatory fights in recent years, and has led to splits within the auto industry, too.
  • The inspector general said the office will explore whether the rules met transparency and record-keeping requirements and "followed the EPA’s process for developing final regulatory actions."
  • The new probe opens another front in the ongoing legal and political tussles over the standards.

The big picture: The prior rules would have required roughly 5% annual efficiency improvements, while the rewritten standards finalized this year mandate 1.5% year-over-year gains.

  • Trump officials called the Obama standards unwieldy and said the rewritten rules will cut traffic deaths — a conclusion that critics contest.

The intrigue: The ultimate shape of U.S. auto rules will be in flux for a while. The new standards are being litigated, and if Joe Biden wins, he'd look to revive more stringent requirements and extend them.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Nov 2, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Trump's Paris agreement endgame is here

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

On Nov. 4, the U.S. will have bailed (pretty sure that's the precise diplomatic term) on the Paris climate agreement, but the date's significance depends almost entirely on what happens a day earlier.

Driving the news: Wednesday marks a year since the Trump administration started the one-year countdown required under the pact's rules to formally abandon the deal, though President Trump first announced the plan back in 2017.

GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

Spotted last week on a work van in Evansville, Ind. Photo: Sam Owens/The Evansville Courier & Press via Reuters

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

The limits of Biden's plan to cancel student debt

Data: New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax; Chart: Axios Visuals

There’s a growing consensus among Americans who want President Biden to cancel student debt — but addressing the ballooning debt burden is much more complicated than it seems.

Why it matters: Student debt is stopping millions of Americans from buying homes, buying cars and starting families. And the crisis is rapidly getting worse.