Political News

Justice Department sues California over air pollution agreement with Canada

Posted October 23, 2019 12:19 p.m. EDT

— The Justice Department sued California on Wednesday, claiming that the state bypassed federal authority when it entered into an environmental agreement with the Canadian province of Quebec to combat air pollution.

In a complaint filed in California federal court, Justice Department prosecutors argued that the 2013 program, which established a cap-and-trade system between the Golden State and the eastern Canadian region that limited the amount of greenhouse gases that industrial and power plants could emit, was illegal because it amounted to a treaty or compact between a US state and a foreign power.

"The state of California has veered outside of its proper constitutional lane to enter into an international emissions agreement. 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 US foreign policy," said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark, the head of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "California's unlawful cap-and-trade agreement with Quebec undermines the President's ability to negotiate competitive agreements with other nations as the President sees fit."

The lawsuit is the latest broadside by the Trump administration against California. Leaders in the liberal state have feuded with President Donald Trump as he has challenged their progressive environmental policies and criticized them for a homelessness problem.

Last month, Trump said that he was revoking California's authority to set its own vehicle emission standards, leading to concern from environmentalists that the state's downward trend in air pollution could be affected.

California, as well as New York, is fighting that move in court.

In a statement Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, slammed the cap-and-trade suit as "political retribution" and another example of the Trump administration's "abysmal record of denying climate change and propping up big polluters."

"For years our state has proudly participated in a number of environmental partnerships that tackle the devastating effects of climate change to our health and economy. This latest attack shows that the White House has its head in the sand when it comes to climate change and serves no purpose other than continued political retribution," Newsom said.

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