President Trump has launched yet another attack on two of his favorite targets: climate rules and Californians.
In the latest broadside, the administration filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s cap-and-trade program, a centerpiece of its ambitious efforts to slash climate pollution in the coming decades.
At issue is the fact that the carbon marketplace, which allows companies to buy or sell a shrinking number of allowances to emit greenhouse gases, incorporates the Canadian province of Quebec. The suit argues that agreement constitutes the sort of compact that only the federal government can enter into.
It’s part of the White House’s ongoing efforts to unravel any climate rules that threaten fossil fuel interests, and pander to a base of supporters that abhors California’s relatively progressive policies and people on general principle (call it lack-of-virtue signaling).
“The White House is yet again continuing its political vendetta against California, our climate policies and the health of our communities,” Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement.
Last month, the Department of Justice launched an investigation into four automakers that struck a deal with California to build more fuel-efficient vehicles, in an end-run around the administration’s efforts to rollback Obama-era auto regulations. Legal observers suggested the arguments for such an investigation were preposterous.
This time around, however, the administration may have a stronger case. Legal scholars previously noted that the cap-and-trade program was at risk of just such a legal challenge on this basis. And as the LA Times noted in an editorial, “The Constitution isn’t exactly vague on that point; Article I declares that ‘No state shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance or Confederation.’”
California is relying on the cap-and trade program to account for nearly 40% of its emissions cuts through 2030, or roughly 240 million metric tons, according to the state’s scoping plan. Though a variety of challenges have limited its effectiveness to date, it’s still widely seen as test case for how well such market-based mechanisms can really work.
A successful legal challenge could at least force California to split its market from Quebec’s, limiting the size and effectiveness of the carbon trading scheme. The filing alone may also discourage other states from pursuing similar cross-boundary pacts.