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Judge Dismisses Trump Admin Lawsuit Against California's Cap and Trade Program

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Judge Dismisses Trump Admin Lawsuit Against California's Cap and Trade Program
A Tesla electric car crosses the Golden Gate Bridge using autopilot on Sept. 29, 2018. Thomas Hawk / Flickr

A federal judge rejected a Trump administration lawsuit to put a stop to California's carbon cap and trade program, which regulates the state's transportation sector, as The Hill reported. The transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions as of 2018.


The market-based program is designed to reduce carbon emissions by making companies pay for the excess carbon they use. Since its signing in 2006 by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, it has forced companies to spend billions on carbon credits, according to The Sacramento Bee.

The California legislation enters the state into a marketplace with the Canadian province Quebec. The administration challenged the program, arguing that California had no authority to deal directly with the government of another nation and that the program usurps the federal government's primacy in foreign affairs, as Our Daily Planet reported.

The alliance between California and Quebec allows companies in both states to sell carbon credits to each other and, California officials say, broadens the market for credits and strengthens the overall program. The White House argued that the trade deal was equivalent to California signing a treaty with a foreign nation, which it is prohibited from doing under the constitution.

"California's Governors have defied this clear constitutional structure," federal officials argued in court papers, according to The Sacramento Bee. "They have positioned the State in open opposition to the foreign policy of the United States on greenhouse gas emissions."

However, the judge in the case, U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb, said California hasn't exceeded its legal limits or intruded on Trump's "foreign affairs power."

The federal government has shown no "concrete evidence that the President's power to speak and bargain effectively with other countries has actually been diminished," the judge wrote, as The Sacramento Bee reported.

In a tweet, Gov. Gavin Newsom called Shubb's decision a "huge victory in an unwarranted and vindictive lawsuit against California."

Twitter

Justice Department spokesperson Danielle Nichols told The Hill in an email that the department is "considering our next steps."

A spokesperson for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra referred The Hill to a past statement in which the lawyer said "California's Cap-and-Trade Program has existed since 2012 and was only strengthened from our collaboration with Quebec."

"California has long been a leader in fighting climate change for the sake of protecting public health, our natural resources, our economy, and indeed our planet," the spokesperson added.

The cap and trade program revolves around a series of carbon-credit auctions held every three months by the California Resources Board, the state's air pollution agency. Each credit enables the business buying it to emit one ton of carbon pollution. The number of available credits ratchets down every auction, which forces businesses to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint or buy extra credits on the open market. The market-based approach is designed to give individual businesses flexibility while simultaneously reducing the overall volume of carbon emissions, according to The Sacramento Bee.

In a sign that pollution is dropping, only one-third of carbon credits were sold in the latest auction, suggesting that the coronavirus pandemic is drastically reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the transportation sector.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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