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Trump’s Legal Attack Fails on California-Quebec Climate Pact (1)

July 17, 2020, 9:44 PMUpdated: July 17, 2020, 10:03 PM

California’s climate pact with Quebec doesn’t interfere with U.S. authority to conduct foreign affairs, a federal court said Friday.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California tossed the Trump administration’s legal attack on the agreement, concluding the U.S. failed to show that California’s cap-and-trade program “substantially circumscribed or compromised” the president’s role in communicating with foreign governments.

The decision is a win for California, Quebec, and environmental advocates and states that support the carbon-trading scheme between the two jurisdictions. A victory for the U.S. could have spawned subsequent challenges to other U.S. carbon-cutting programs, including the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative among mostly Northeast states.

The Justice Department launched its unusual legal challenge to the California-Quebec program last year, arguing that it tread on the federal government’s turf and violated the Constitution.

Senior Judge William B. Shubb rejected some of the administration’s arguments in March. The Justice Department withdrew a third argument, and the court scrapped the final foreign affairs claim Friday.

Decision Reaction

Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark, the agency’s top environment lawyer, said the department “is examining its next steps.”

The office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra couldn’t immediately comment on the decision, but Becerra has previously defended the cap-and-trade program and said it was “only strengthened from our collaboration with Quebec.”

More than a dozen states supported California in the case, along with Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, and others.

“The Trump Administration struck out today on its third swing at California’s innovative collaboration with Quebec to curb climate pollution,” NRDC senior attorney David Pettit said in a statement Friday.

California and Quebec first negotiated the climate agreement in 2013 and reached the current deal in 2017. The Trump administration filed its lawsuit in October.

The case is United States v. California, E.D. Cal., No. 2:19-cv-02142, 7/17/20.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at; Chuck McCutcheon at

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