Quantcast

7 Kids Demand Judge Uphold Their Rights to a Healthy Environment in Landmark Case

Young Washington citizens sat in a packed King County courtroom yesterday and watched as their attorney, Andrea Rodgers, gave a stunning and impassioned argument to the court as she fought for her clients’ right to a healthy environment and safe climate. Judge Hollis Hill heard oral argument in the important case brought by seven young petitioners to address Washington Department of Ecology’s (DOE) persistent refusal to set science-based carbon pollution limits.

Andrea Rodgers and some of the youth plaintiffs, excited before their meeting with Gov. Inslee. Photo credit: Our Children's Trust

This is the second time this year the petitioners have found themselves in a King County courtroom. In May, Judge Hill heard oral argument in the case and, based on the undisputed climate science, ordered the DOE to reconsider its first denial of the youths’ petition. Doubling down on obsolete science, the DOE denied the youths' petition a second time.

The young petitioners sat stunned yesterday as counsel for the DOE told the court, “I do not know if there is an inherent right for a healthful environment,” and proceeded to tell the court that it was up for the legislature to decide. The DOE was steadfast in their position that they are not required to regulate carbon dioxide emissions based on the current science.

Rodgers and some of the youth petitioners after their first hearing. Photo credit: Our Children's Trust

“These brave kids have worked extremely hard to present Ecology with the most current and best available climate science, all of which the agency has ignored,” said Western Environmental Law Center attorney Rodgers. “It is now time for the court to step in and direct Ecology to initiate a rulemaking process based on the best available science—not the most convenient policy—to protect these youths’ fundamental rights. Ecology’s legal obligations to protect the air and water resources in this state are clear; now it is up to the judge to enforce those laws.”

In response to the youth petitioners’ lawsuit, the DOE plans to initiate rulemaking as directed by Gov. Inslee “to set a regulatory cap on carbon emissions and to develop reductions in carbon dioxide emissions using its existing authority.” As it stands, the DOE plans to use targets from the 2008 standards that the agency has already admitted “should be adjusted to better reflect the current science,” and “need to be more aggressive in order for Washington to do its part to address climate risks.” Counsel for the youth petitioners made it clear to the court that the DOE's non-scientific rulemaking effort does not remedy the youth petitioners’ legal claims alleged in the case.

The youth plaintiffs met with Gov. Inslee on July 17 to discuss their case. He directed the DOE to act on climate on July 28. Photo credit: Our Children's Trust

The youths argue that a carbon cap and emissions reductions must be based on a target of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations of no more than 350 parts per million (ppm), as put forth by their experts, Dr. James Hansen, Dr. Pushker Kharecha, Dr. Ove Hoegh-GuldbergDr. Richard Gammon and Matthew McRae.

Rodgers argued to the court that more delay in resolving their legal claims will lock in the infringement of their fundamental rights. 

Some of the youth plaintiffs at a climate demonstration. Photo credit: Our Children’s Trust

“Andrea Rodgers gave a profound argument on behalf of the youths and called on the court to rule on the youths’ legal rights by ordering Ecology to take science-based action,” said Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel at Our Children’s Trust. 

Judge Hill is reviewing the extensive briefing in the case and will issue a written decision before the end of the year. 

The seven youth petitioners are represented by Andrea Rodgers of the Western Environmental Law Center. The lawsuit was filed with the help of Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit orchestrating a global, game-changing, youth-driven legal campaign to establish the right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate. 

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

14 Passionate Young Leaders Inspiring a Just and Thriving Planet

It’s Our Generation, It’s Our Choice: Climate Justice Now

Watch Sir David Attenborough’s Amazing Narration of Adele’s ‘Hello’ Video

10 Stunning Photos of Rare Northern Lights (And How to Take Your Own)

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Bernie Sanders holds his first presidential campaign rally at Brooklyn College on March 02 in Brooklyn, New York. Kena Betancur / VIEWpress / Corbis. Getty Images

Bernie Sanders has become the first contender in the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential primary field to pledge to offset all of the greenhouse gas emissions released by campaign travel, The Huffington Post reported Thursday.

Read More Show Less
An aerial view of the flooding at the Camp Ashland, Nebraska on March 17. Nebraska National Guard / Staff Sgt. Herschel Talley / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The record flooding in the Midwest that has now been blamed for four deaths could also have lasting consequences for the region's many farmers.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

In tea, food, or just on your windowsill, embrace the fragrance and fantastic healing potential of herbs.

Read More Show Less

By Ana Santos Rutschman

The world of food and drug regulation was rocked earlier this month by the news of a change in leadership at the Food and Drug Administration. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb resigned and will step down in early April. His temporary replacement is Dr. Ned Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute.

Read More Show Less
MartinPrescott / iStock / Getty Images

On Wednesday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the first 20 chemicals it plans to prioritize as "high priority" for assessment under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Given the EPA's record of malfeasance on chemicals policy over the past two years, it is clear that these are chemicals that EPA is prioritizing to ensure that they are not properly evaluated or regulated.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Strawberries top the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list of U.S. produce most contaminated with pesticides. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP / Getty Images

Which conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables in the U.S. are most contaminated with pesticides? That's the question that the Environmental Working Group answers every year with its "Dirty Dozen" list of produce with the highest concentration of pesticides after being washed or peeled.

Read More Show Less
A drilling rig in a Wyoming natural gas field. William Campbell / Corbis via Getty Images

A U.S. federal judge temporarily blocked oil and gas drilling on 300,000 acres of federal leases in Wyoming Tuesday, arguing that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) "did not sufficiently consider climate change" when auctioning off the land, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
Mizina / iStock / Getty Images

By Ryan Raman, MS, RD

Oats are widely regarded as one of the healthiest grains you can eat, as they're packed with many important vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Read More Show Less