US Sues California Over ‘Illegal’ Cap-and-Trade Pact With Quebec

October 24, 2019 Updated: October 25, 2019

The Trump administration is suing California over what it calls an “illegal” cap-and-trade agreement with the Canadian province of Quebec, alleging the Golden State is conducting its own “independent foreign policy in the area of greenhouse gas regulation.”

The lawsuit comes as the administration prepares to formally withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, in which close to 200 countries pledged to reduce emissions claimed to contribute to global warming, The New York Times reports, citing unnamed sources.

“I withdrew the United States from the terrible, one-sided Paris Climate Accord. It was a total disaster for our country … a giant transfer of American wealth to foreign nations that are responsible for most of the world’s pollution,” President Donald Trump told a receptive audience Oct. 23 at the 9th Annual Shale Insight Conference in Pittsburgh.

“Our air right now and our water right now is as clean as it’s been in decades. Shutting down American producers … with excessive regulatory restrictions like you would not believe, while allowing foreign producers to pollute with impunity.”

The new lawsuit accuses California of overstepping its authority by usurping the president’s constitutionally stipulated role in the making of foreign policy.

California “has veered outside of its proper constitutional lane to enter into an international emissions agreement,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the U.S. Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

“The power to enter into such agreements is reserved to the federal government, which must be able to speak with one voice in the area of U.S. foreign policy.”

This agreement with Quebec “undermines the President’s ability to negotiate competitive agreements with other nations, as the President sees fit,” Clark said.

The California–Quebec agreement, entered into in 2013 without congressional approval, is an “intrusion” that “complexifies and burdens the United States’ task, as a collective of the states and territories, of negotiating competitive international agreements.”

The pact could also have the effect of encouraging “other states to enter into similarly illegal arrangements.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, responded by claiming the Trump White House was “yet again continuing its political vendetta against California, our climate policies, and the health of our communities,” and that the new lawsuit “serves no purpose other than continued political retribution.”

“Carbon pollution knows no borders, and the Trump administration’s abysmal record of denying climate change and propping up big polluters makes cross-border collaboration all the more necessary. California’s landmark cap-and-trade program has inspired the creation of dozens of businesses, is a model for similar policies around the world, and puts California well ahead of the pack as we prepare for a low-carbon future,” said Newsom.

In addition to the state of California, the lawsuit filed Oct. 23 in the Eastern District of California names Newsom, Environmental Protection Secretary Jared Blumenfeld, the California Air Resources Board, and the Western Climate Initiative Inc. (WCI) as defendants. WCI is a Sacramento-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit registered in Delaware in 2011 that provides administrative and technical services to support the implementation of emissions trading programs among California and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Nova Scotia.

Officials in Quebec say they will move ahead with plans for the province’s own carbon market if the emissions trading system it has with California is scuttled by the Trump administration’s lawsuit, The Globe and Mail, a Toronto-based newspaper, reports.

“We are satisfied with the carbon market. If ever California left, we would continue alone,” Quebec Premier François Legault said to reporters. “We would prefer if California stayed and if even other states joined. I know certain governors are thinking about it. But we’re not going to start debating what Mr. Trump says.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose government was returned to power in national elections this week, praised Quebec for demonstrating “leadership in the fight against climate change.”

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