Oct 24, 2019 - Energy & Environment

Parsing Trump's latest climate tussle with California

illustration of a hand plugging up a smoke stack
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The battle between the Trump administration and California over climate policy further escalated on Wednesday.

Driving the news: The Justice Department, in a new lawsuit, alleges the state's emissions-trading system is an unconstitutional foray into the federal government's foreign affairs role thanks to the state's partnership with the Canadian province of Quebec.

  • Why it matters: Per Axios' Amy Harder, if the lawsuit succeeds, it could limit states’ abilities to collaborate with foreign countries on policies whose impacts don’t follow borders — like climate change.

One big question: Whether the move has any chance of success. Attorney David Bookbinder, a veteran of legal battles over global warming, called it "pure petty harassment" in an email exchange.

  • UCLA law professor Ann Carlson has a post on the school's LegalPlanet blog that argues DOJ's lawsuit is on shaky ground, and her colleague Cara Horowitz notes in a companion piece:
"[M]any good lawyers have been aware of these constitutional bounds from the get-go and have designed California’s program and its relationship with Quebec with these principles well in mind."

But, but, but: Jonathan Adler, a prominent conservative attorney with the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, said via Twitter that DOJ is presenting strong arguments.

  • "Whatever one thinks of DOJ's motivations in California lawsuits, concern for constitutionality of state-level climate agreements has been brewing for quite some time," he said.

The big picture: It's the latest move in the wider battle between the administration and California on climate and environmental policy. Other fronts include:

  • EPA has yanked California's Clean Air Act power to set carbon emissions limits for vehicles, a move already in litigation.
  • DOJ is also probing whether four automakers' voluntary agreement with California on emissions standards violates antitrust law.
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