Children, Youth Sue U.S. Government over Climate Change Inaction
(APN) ATLANTA — Juliana v. U.S. Government is no ordinary lawsuit; it is a historic lawsuit with children telling President Donald Trump and the fossil fuel industry that they will see them in court to save the the environment for future generations.
The Children’s Climate Change lawsuit was first filed in August 2015 in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Oregon. The Plaintiffs are twenty-one children and young adults from the ages of eleven to 22; and two environmental organizations: Our Children’s Trust (www.ourchildrenstrust.org ) and Earth Guardians (www.earthguardians.org ).
A copy of the Complaint is available here:
The youth are suing the federal government for violating what they are claiming–in a novel legal strategy–is their right to clean air, clean water, a healthy future, and a stable climate that can sustain life.
They want equal rights to a clean environment and a stable climate system that past generations have enjoyed.
The young plaintiffs have offered extensive expert declarations showing their injuries are linked to fossil fuel-induced climate change, and that conditions will continue to worsen without court intervention.
They filed sworn declarations attesting to a broad range of personal injuries caused by human induced climate change. Here are a few of the many injuries alleged.
The plaintiffs attest to being injured by extreme weather events and related flooding, which are in turn caused by sea level rise, inland flooding, and ocean acidification.
“I filed this lawsuit when I was eight years old, and now I’m eleven, and now we might have to wait until I’m fourteen. I’m seeing the effects of climate change happen all around me in Florida; we don’t have two more years to lose,” Levi, 11, said in a press release.
Barrier islands like the one Levi lives on will be underwater in the future and residents will be forced to move, if climate change is not stopped.
Flooding has caused plaintiffs’ loss of homes, harm to health, harm to personal safety, emotional trauma, and loss of economic security.
Other plaintiffs attest that climate change has harmed their recreational interests in Oregon’s freshwater lakes, rivers, forests, and mountains; and has degraded the quality of local food sources and drinking water.
The children allege adverse health, economic, and psychological trauma caused by the increased occurrence and intensity of seasonal wildfires brought on by drought caused by climate change.
“In Colorado, forest fires have increased from about 25 a year in 1970 to 135 in 2015. Millions of acres of wild land, many lives, homes, and wildlife has been lost [sic], and the air quality has suffered,” Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, another plaintiff said on the Our Children’s Trust website.
Still other plaintiffs attest to injuries to their indigenous and cultural practices and values.
Like many environmental lawsuits, this one must also overcome the obstacle of standing, which means that the plaintiffs have to show that they have (1) personally suffered an injury that is actual or imminent; (2) that the injury is fairly traceable to the conduct of the defendant, in this case the U.S. Government; and (3) that the injury is likely to be redressed by the relief sought by the court, if granted.
Lack of standing has stood in the way of many environmental advocates and organizations that have sought to use the judiciary to address our environmental crisis. Environmental harms are often difficult to document, or to attribute to one cause or another.
In this case, the plaintiffs are making a broad, sweeping argument that they have a fundamental right to clean air and water that is being deprived by the U.S. Government.
“The trial court determined on October 15  that the Plaintiffs had standing. We have survived summary judgement on the issue of standing,” Philip Gregory of Gregory Law Group and co-counsel for the Youth Plaintiffs told Atlanta Progressive News.
The lawsuit claims that the federal government’s fossil fuel policies and actions which affirmatively give billions in taxpayer dollars to the fossil fuel industry every year have created a national energy system that causes climate change; and that the federal government continues policies that prevent climate recovery.
The suit claims the U.S. government has known for over fifty years that carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution from burning fossil fuels was causing global warming and dangerous climate change.
The U.S. Government also knew the harmful impacts of their actions would destabilize the climate system and cause harm to future generations.
In fact, scientists have known since the year 1899 that the burning of fossil fuels would warm the Earth.
The government’s actions, and inactions in failing to move away from burning fossil fuels, continues to threaten the resources that future generations will rely on for their survival and well being.
The Plaintiffs want the government to implement the science-based National Climate Recovery Plans to return atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations to below 350 parts per million (ppm) by 2100 to stabilize our climate system.
Currently CO2 levels are 400 ppm, or 50 ppm above what is safe for a healthy and stable climate. According to the consensus of scientists, the country must start reducing CO2 emissions by 2020 to avoid a runaway climate.
An Amended Complaint adds that the U.S. government has allowed cumulative C02 emission to increase over time by enabling and permitting fossil fuel production and combustion, by subsidizing the fossil fuel industry, and by allowing interstate and international transport of fossil fuels.
The “Federal Government has violated duties as trustee by failing to protect the atmosphere, water, seas, seashores, and wildlife. These aggregate actions by the government have caused climate instability that injures the prospects of the Plaintiffs for long and healthy lives and infringes on their fundamental constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property.”
The lawsuit claims that acting with deliberate indifference, the U.S. Government has not implemented or complied with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 1990 Report or the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) 1991 Report to reduce carbon pollution from fossil fuels, stop global warming, or protect the climate system for future generations.
If the federal government had listened to scientists and implemented the recommendations of these reports, emissions today would be reduced by 35 percent from 1987 levels.
Instead, the Defendants have allowed or caused an additional 130,466 million metric tons of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.
The Plaintiffs’ Claims for Relief include: (1) Violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment; (2) Violation of Equal Protection Principles Embedded in the Fifth Amendment; (3) Unenumerated Rights Preserved for the People by the Ninth Amendment; (4) Violation of the Public Trust Doctrine secured by the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.
Trump’s Failed Efforts to Dismiss the Case
For two years, the Trump Administration has tried to get the case dismissed with numerous Motions to Stay in different courts. All the government’s efforts motions to dismiss have been denied.
“If the government has to testify about the climate science and lies, that is perjury. Fake news in the courtroom is perjury and the Trump administration does not want this case going to trial and getting the climate science in a courtroom,” Gregory tells APN.
“Trump will never go under oath,” he said.
The trial was to start in the U.S. District Court in Oregon on October 29, 2018.
But on October 18, the Trump Administration filed a second writ of mandamus petition and application for stay with the Supreme Court of U.S., asking it to circumvent the ordinary procedures of federal litigation and stop the case.
On November 02, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the Trump Administration’s application for stay and noted the impropriety of seeking review from the Supreme Court without first filing a petition with the Circuit Court. The justices advised the U.S. Government to return to the Ninth Circuit.
The current status of the case is, “There is a petition for mandamus in the Ninth Circuit Court… In connection with that petition, the Trump Administration applied for an emergency stay, which the Ninth Circuit granted in part… [to] stay the trial, but not the discovery or pretrial matters,” Gregory said.
“In the District Court, Judge Akin certified the case for appeal, so that her orders are going to go up to the Ninth Circuit Court on appeal. She stayed the whole case until the Ninth Circuit makes a decision on her prior orders,” Gregory said.
Judge Aiken maintained the climate lawsuit would be better situated for appeal after trial, not before.
The latest evidence released in the National Climate Assessment shows that CO2 emissions are continuing to grow under the Trump Administration.
This makes it urgent for the trial to begin before 2020, which is when the country must start reducing CO2 or risk runaway climate change. The current trial timeline is 2021.
On December 05, 2018, Plaintiffs asked the District Court to lift the Stay on pretrial proceedings and to start the trial in January or February 2019.
“So right now, the whole case is stayed pending a decision by the Ninth Circuit… but if the Ninth Circuit orders it to go to trial, it will go it trial,” Gregory concluded.
Here is every document filed in the climate case:
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2018)