The battle between the White House and California over which has the right to determine climate policies escalated on Wednesday after the administration of US President Donald Trump sued the state and other entities for entering into an agreement made with the Canadian province of Quebec and designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
“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 US Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark in a statement.
The United States Department of Justice, which brought the lawsuit, said California, state officials, the California Air Resources Board, and the Western Climate Initiative Inc entered into a complex, integrated cap-and-trade programme with Quebec in 2013 without approval from the US Congress.
In cap and trade markets, governments set a steadily declining limit on emissions, and companies that cut emissions quickly can sell credits to others that need more time. The pact between California and Quebec is administered by the Western Climate Initiative.
This is the latest effort by the Trump administration to limit California’s aggressive approach to combating air pollution and climate change.
Trump, a Republican who questions the science behind climate change, has eased regulations on the oil, gas and coal industries and intends to pull the US out of the global 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
Last month, Trump said he is revoking California’s power to set vehicle-emissions standards that are tougher than those demanded by federal regulations, portraying the move as a “win for consumers”.
Environmentalists argue that Trump’s rules will accelerate climate change, and that emissions rules improve fuel economy, in turn lowering consumer costs.
Also last month, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a letter to California officials saying the state is not taking adequate steps to fix air quality problems, putting in jeopardy billions of dollars in federal funding for transportation projects.
Hundreds of former EPA employees are calling for a congressional probe into whether the agency’s feud with California represents retaliation for the state’s failure to support Trump’s political agenda.