Quantcast
Climate

21 Kids Take on the Feds and Big Oil in Historic Climate Lawsuit

[Editor's note: Twenty-one youth plaintiffs, as well as climate scientist Dr. James Hansen as guardian for future generations, is suing the federal government to cease conduct that promotes fossil fuel extraction and consumption, and instead develop and implement an actual science-based climate recovery plan. The complaint argues the youth have a fundamental constitutional right to be free from the government's destruction of their Earth's atmosphere. Yesterday's court appearance was scheduled for the judge to hear oral arguments from the U.S. government and the fossil fuel industry on their motions to dismiss the landmark constitutional climate change lawsuit.]

At Wednesday morning's historic hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Coffin questioned Department of Justice attorney Sean C. Duffy on whether the federal government was allowing tradeoffs between present and future generations. To illustrate his question, the Judge used an example of a discount rate, and pondered whether the government's actions were effectively trading future harm for present day benefits.

The youth plaintiffs after the hearing. Photo credit: Our Children's Trust

“Are you robbing Peter to pay Paul?" the judge asked a flustered Duffy.

The hearing began with Duffy denying the federal government's duty under the public trust doctrine to protect essential natural resources for the benefit of all present and future generations. The judge asked, “Both (water & air) are vital to life, right?"

“Yes, your honor," replied Duffy.

The Judge also asked if the government could sell the Pacific Ocean to Exxon. Remarkably, Duffy had a constitutional argument handy to support even that proposition.

Hundreds of students, activists, professors and citizens concerned about climate turned out in Eugene, Oregon to support 21 young plaintiffs, ages 8-19, in what Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein call the “most important lawsuit on the planet right now."

Plaintiffs, attorneys and supporters gather on the steps of the federal courthouse in Eugene on March 9, 2016 after U.S. magistrate Thomas Coffin heard oral arguments in their case against the federal government. The case involves 21 youth plaintiffs demanding the U.S. government take science based action against climate change. Photo credit: Our Children's Trust

“The future of our generation is at stake," said 16-year-old plaintiff Victoria Barrett at the press conference following the hearing.

Read page 1

“People label our generation as dreamers, but hope is not the only tool we have. I am young, I am a teenager, and I want to have fun, and be creative, and hang out with my friends. I want to do what I love and live a life full of opportunities. I want the generation that follows to have the same and I absolutely refuse to let our government's harmful action, corporate greed and the pure denial of climate science get in the way of that."

The plaintiffs' sued the federal government for violating their fundamental constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by taking actions that permit, encourage and otherwise enable continued exploitation, production and combustion of fossil fuels.

“We firmly believe the court will view this as an egregious instance where the federal government intensified the danger to our plaintiffs' life, liberty and property," said plaintiffs' attorney Phil Gregory with Cotchett, Pitre, & McCarthy. “This case places indisputable climate science squarely in front of the federal courts, requesting an order forcing our government to cease jeopardizing the climate system for present and future generations."

The purpose of Wednesday's hearing was to hear arguments from the parties on the federal government's and fossil fuel industry's motions to dismiss the youth's climate change lawsuit. The judge conducted incisive questioning of lawyers presenting oral argument for both sides on the issue. The hearing lasted for two hours. It's unclear when he will reach a decision on the defendants' motions, but the youth plaintiffs are optimistic the Judge will treat their case fairly.

Climate scientist James Hansen speaks on the steps of the federal courthouse in Eugene, Oregon. Hansen is taking an active role in helping make a science based argument in the case. Photo credit: Our Children's Trust

“Defendants are wrong that our complaint fails to allege constitutional and public trust violations for the harms caused these young plaintiffs," said Julia Olson, lead counsel for the plaintiffs and executive director of Our Children's Trust, in her closing argument.

“Defendants in essence ask this court to ignore the undisputed scientific evidence, presented in our complaint and in opposing this motion, that the federal government has, and continues to, damage plaintiffs' personal security and other fundamental rights. But these young plaintiffs have the right to prove the government's role in harming them has been knowing and deliberate."

Watch the press event following yesterday's hearing:

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.: Syria, Another Pipeline War

Dear President Obama, The Clean Energy Revolution Is Now

California Widow Sues Monsanto Alleging Roundup Caused Her Husband's Cancer

Break Free: Stop Dirty Fossil Fuels, Expedite Transition to 100% Renewable Energy

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Politics
L: Michael Coghlan / Flickr R: Coloured chest X-ray of a male patient showing evidence of a mesothelioma lung cancer, which is usually associated with exposure to asbestos. Zephyr / Science Photo Library / Getty Images

Report: 140 House Members Vote Against Chemical Safeguards Every Time

The Environmental Working Group Action Fund, the political arm of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), released a first-ever report that scores how each member of the U.S. House of Representatives voted on chemical policy and safety.

The scorecard shows that 140 House members voted against chemical safeguards every time, while 149 members consistently voted for chemical safety protections.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
grobery / CC BY SA 2.0 (Flickr)

What’s for Dinner? A Preview of the People, Process and Politics Updating Federal Dietary Guidelines

By Sarah Reinhardt

Months behind schedule, two federal departments have officially kicked off the process for writing the 2020-2025 iteration of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Updated and reissued every five years, these guidelines are the nation's most comprehensive and authoritative set of nutrition recommendations. And although the process is meant to be science-based and support population health—and has historically done so, with some notable exceptions—there are plenty of reasons to believe that the Trump administration is preparing to pitch a few curveballs.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Vladimirovic / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The Many Hazards of Toxic Algae Outbreaks

By Sarah Graddy and Robert Coleman

This summer, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is tracking outbreaks of potentially toxic algae across the U.S. We have been startled to find that these outbreaks are erupting everywhere: from the East Coast to the West Coast, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
London skyline with level 32 "moderate" air pollution in Sept. 2017. David Holt / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Air Pollution Particles Discovered in Placentas

Researchers have found the first evidence that soot from polluted air can travel from a pregnant woman's lungs and reach the placenta via the bloodstream, according to a press release from Queen Mary University of London.

The study examined the placentas of five women living in London after they gave birth. The women were all non-smokers, had uncomplicated pregnancies and delivered healthy babies.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Health
An asbestos cleanup crew before the demolition of Moorpark High School in CA in 1996. Carlos Chavez / LA Times / Getty Images

EPA Is Failing to Protect School Children From Asbestos, Internal Watchdog Agency Says

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) isn't doing enough to protect the 50 million school children and seven million teachers and staff who spend time in U.S. private and public schools from asbestos exposure.

That's the conclusion of a report released Monday by the EPA's Office of Inspector General (OIG), the agency's internal watchdog.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Pexels

Lawsuit Launched to Push Trump Administration to Protect Giraffes From Extinction

Conservation groups Tuesday filed a notice of intent to sue the Trump administration for failing to respond to a legal petition to protect giraffes under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was required to respond to the April 2017 petition within 90 days, but nearly 17 months have passed with no finding.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Pexels

Under the USDA’s Definition, 90% of Iowa’s Farms Are 'Family Farms'

By Dan Nosowitz

When you think of "family farms," a nice bucolic image probably comes to mind: something small, maybe lower-budget or lower-tech, run by a family.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Pexels

Coca-Cola Eyes Cannabis-Infused Drinks Market

Coca-Cola is "closely watching" the cannabis drinks market, the world's largest beverage company said Monday in an online statement.

Coke announced its interest after a report from Canada's BNN Bloomberg said the soda giant was in "serious talks" with Edmonton-based Aurora Cannabis, a medical marijuana producer and distributor, to develop drinks infused with cannabidiol, or CBD.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!