The Trump administration on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit against California, alleging that the state exceeded its constitutional authority by joining with the Canadian province of Quebec in a program to cut fossil fuel emissions.
The complaint, filed in California federal court, names Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and others. It alleges California bypassed federal power to conduct foreign policy and make international accords when it signed onto a cap and trade program with Quebec.
President Trump’s administration has filed suit over a California arrangement with Quebec.
The program, which lets businesses pay to buy pollution credits, was started by former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006. Quebec signed on about a decade later.
California “veered outside its proper constitutional lane” by signing an international accord, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark said in a statement.
Newsom said Wednesday that the administration was “continuing its political vendetta against California, our climate policies and the health of our communities.”
Trump, who is an outspoken climate change skeptic, has made reviving the sagging U.S. coal industry and expanding the country’s oil and gas boom central to his platform. As one of the first acts of his presidency, he declared his intention to pull out of the globally accepted Paris climate accord.
Wednesday lawsuit adds to dozens of others filed by California and other states to challenge the Trump administration’s rollbacks of environmental regulations and laws. Tensions between Newsom and the administration escalated this year, when Trump tried to compel California to join in his proposal to relax Obama-era mileage standards for passenger vehicles.
In September, the Justice Department launched an antitrust probe of four automakers that agreed to follow California’s tougher mileage standards. Other administration moves against California since then include threatening to withhold billions from California’s highway funds over the state’s purported failure to tackle air pollution.
Constitutional expert Cary Coglianese, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, said the new lawsuit raises questions about whether Trump’s inaction on climate change amounts to an international and domestic policy that states are obliged to follow.
Josh Blackman, a professor at South Texas College of Law, said the lawsuit “has some merits … regardless (of) what you think of global warming.”
“The gist of the complaint … is that California’s conduct interferes with the idea that the nation speaks with a single voice on climate — in this case, by pulling out of the Paris accord,” said Deborah Sivas, a professor at Stanford Law School.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.