Energy & Environment

Trump admin sues California over state bill on land rights

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The Trump administration is suing California over a bill that purports to give the state power to block the sale of federal land.

In the lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in federal court in Sacramento on Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions argues that the California law is unconstitutional, as states lack the right to make decisions on the use of federal lands. 


“The Constitution empowers the federal government — not state legislatures — to decide when and how federal lands are sold. California was admitted to the Union upon the express condition that it would never interfere with the disposal of federal land,” Sessions said in a statement.

The DOJ is seeking an injunction to the bill. 

The bill, passed into law in October, was viewed largely as a direct check against the Trump administration, which has over the past year sought to increase oil and gas drilling on public lands and shrunk the boundaries of two national monuments.

The bill was passed as part of a trio in an overarching “Preserve California” package. The bill now under challenge by the Trump administration expressly seeks to discourage the sale of federal public land without the state’s permission — by giving California the right of “first refusal.”

In his statement, Sessions criticizes the California law as one of many “extreme” maneuvers taken by the state.

“Once again, the California legislature has enacted an extreme state law attempting to frustrate federal policy. The Justice Department shouldn’t have to spend valuable time and resources to file this suit today, but we have a duty to defend the rightful prerogatives of the U.S. military, the Interior Department, and other federal agencies to buy, sell, exchange or donate federal properties in a lawful manner in the national interest,” Sessions said.

Last month, the Department of Justice sued California over its so-called sanctuary laws, one of several fights the Trump administration has picked with the state recently.

California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra said California will not back down and will meet the DOJ’s courtroom challenge.

“California didn’t become our nation’s economic engine and the sixth-largest economy in the world by just sitting back. We blaze trails, we innovate, and we engage in smart stewardship of our precious public lands. Our public lands should not be on the auction block to the highest bidder,” Becerra said in a statement. “We’re prepared, as always, to do what it takes to protect our people, our resources, and our values.”

Tags California Jeff Sessions land Lawsuit National Monument Xavier Becerra

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