Court Upholds California’s Coordination with Quebec to Cut Climate Pollution

Rejects Trump Administration’s Final Claim that Cross-Border Collaboration Is Unconstitutional

SACRAMENTO –  A federal district court has affirmed that California’s coordination with Quebec to reduce dangerous climate pollution is constitutional, rebuffing the last remaining claim in a lawsuit filed by the Trump Administration last year.

The decision by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California follows a ruling from March 12 of this year – also in favor of California – on two related constitutional claims. EDF and NRDC are parties to the case as intervenors on behalf of California.

“California faces the clear and present danger of climate change, and is innovating and leading with solutions that protect lives, create jobs and strengthen the economy. We need states to take on this role as laboratories of experimentation today more than ever, especially when the federal government fails to provide sound leadership,” said EDF senior attorney Erica Morehouse. “Environmental Defense Fund will continue to stand up for California, and for all states that are taking the reasonable actions they deem most effective to protect people from the grave threats of climate change.”

“The Trump Administration struck out today on its third swing at California’s innovative collaboration with Quebec to curb climate pollution,” said David Pettit, a senior attorney at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “The federal government should be doing everything in its power to fight climate change, not fighting the states that are leading the way.”

California and Quebec developed independent cap-and-trade programs to reduce climate pollution in their respective jurisdictions. They begin coordinating their carbon markets in 2014 in order to create additional benefits for their residents. The Trump Administration filed suit in October, claiming California’s cross-border coordination violated several provisions of the U.S. Constitution. The move followed a string of other legal attacks by the Trump Administration on California’s clean air, clean car, and clean water standards.

The court considered the administration’s lawsuit in two stages, first as challenges under the Constitution’s Compact Clause or Treaty Clause, and finally as interfering with the President’s power to conduct foreign affairs.

With today’s decision, the court has ruled for California on all three of the Trump administration’s claims, stating:

“The United States continually stresses that the President withdrew from the Paris Accord in order to negotiate for a ‘better deal.’ However, the United States offers no concrete evidence that California’s cap-and-trade program has interfered with either negotiations for a better deal or the nation’s imminent withdrawal from the Paris Accord.” (Decision, page 28)

Fourteen states – Oregon, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – also defended California in court as amici.

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NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.​


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