climate change

Trump Sues California to Kill Cross-Border Cap-and-Trade Market

Once again, Trump wants to stop California from dealing with air pollution or climate change. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration often seems hammer-headed in its determination to pursue an objective single-mindedly if it’s important to Trump himself and his key MAGA supporters. But hey, sometimes Team Trump can try to kill two birds with one stone, as Gizmodo’s Brian Kahn observes:

The Trump administration continued its twin, often intertwined wars against California and the climate on Tuesday, suing the state for participating in a program to reduce its carbon pollution.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is arguing that the state’s cap-and-trade program — essentially a market for companies to trade emissions — is unconstitutional because it includes Canadian province Quebec. While it will likely take a long time for the suit to shake out, the filing alone is yet another sign that the Trump administration is hellbent on stalling any climate action.

It seems the administration is trying a fresh angle to kill the cap-and-trade system after business interests failed in state courts to invalidate it. Claiming California is trying to conduct its own foreign policy by expanding the cap-and-trade market to include Canadian companies is indeed a novel complaint, and one that legal beagles aren’t sure about, as the Los Angeles Times reports:

David Wright, an assistant professor at the University of Calgary Faculty of Law, who has studied California’s agreement with Quebec, said that while there is some case law supporting the Trump administration’s legal argument, “the case is extremely far from a slam dunk.”

“I would suggest that this litigation will not be successful because the cap-and-trade regime was carefully structured to not have key characteristics of formal international agreements,” he said. “Even if unsuccessful, though, this litigation is problematic because it will affect market confidence in this emissions trading regime.”

And that’s obviously fine and dandy with the administration, which is shameless about its hostility to any action at the federal or state levels to address climate change. Kahn quotes one legal authority who is crying “shame!” anyway:

“My initial reaction [to the case]: it’s appalling that instead of suing polluters, the Trump administration is suing those trying to stop pollution,” Michael Gerrard, the director of Columbia’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, told Earther in an email. “The least they could do is get out of the way.”

Fat chance of that. As the Times notes, this is just the latest in a series of Trump initiatives aimed at hamstringing California’s environmental efforts:

The Trump administration has steadily escalated its attacks against California’s ability to crack down on air and water pollution. In September, it revoked a decades-old rule that empowered California to set tougher car emissions standards than those required by the federal government, prompting the state to file a lawsuit in response. Then, in the span of about a week, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency sent letters threatening to cut federal highway funding for California over alleged Clean Air Act violations and accusing the state of failing to protect its water.

In addition, the Department of Justice has launched an antitrust investigation into whether four automakers violated federal competition law by reaching a voluntary emissions agreement with California.

One of the great ironies about the lawless man who occupies the White House is that he’s always been extremely litigious, always happy to deploy lawyers to frustrate and intimidate his enemies, as Dana Milbank observed last year:

When he ran for president, he had been involved in some 4,000 lawsuits, a USA Today tally found, about 40 percent filed by Trump and his businesses. He brought the practice with him into politics, threatening to sue, or actually suing: Sen. Ted Cruz (“for not being a natural born citizen”), Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Univision, the publisher of Fire and Fury, the Club for Growth, the Culinary Workers Union, the Republican Party, restaurants that pulled out of Trump International Hotel in Washington, the Associated Press, his former ghostwriter, NBC, ABC and women who accused him of sexual misconduct. Now Trump’s administration is suing California to stop its “sanctuary cities” policy, and to stop it from buying federal land that Trump wants to privatize.

And that was before all the suits and regulatory actions aimed at the Golden State’s pioneering anti-pollution programs. The stakes in this latest suit, notes the Times, are big and tangible:

California’s cap-and-trade program has raised billions of dollars since its launch through the auction of pollution permits. But so far, the program is not a major driver of cuts in greenhouse gases — most of which are being achieved through other, more traditional regulations including those on fuels, vehicles and power generation….

Regardless, California regulators say the program’s role must increase dramatically in the coming years if the state is to meet its ambitious target of slashing greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. The state Air Resources Board’s plan calls for cap-and-trade to become the single biggest driver of emissions reductions by 2030, responsible for more than one-third of emissions cuts.

Governor Gavin Newsom, who has seen this movie repeatedly, wasn’t conciliatory at all in his reaction to the latest suit:

“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,” the governor said. “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.”

Quick translation: Bring it on.

Trump Attacks California’s Cross-Border Cap-and-Trade Market