Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

People's Right to a Healthy Climate Takes Center Stage in Federal Court

Climate

Spokane residents fighting for the right to a healthy climate will have their day in court on July 12, in the case of Holmquist v. United States.

The case was filed on behalf of seven residents by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) in January 2017. The plaintiffs contend the federal government has failed to take adequate steps to secure and protect the right to a livable and healthy climate. They challenge the federal government's preemption of local regulation over the transportation of fossil fuels by rail, asserting that such transportation violates their right to a healthy and livable climate.


The hearing to determine if the lawsuit will proceed to trial will take place at the federal courthouse in downtown Spokane, with Judge Thomas O. Rice presiding.

Last year, six of the seven plaintiffs were involved in nonviolent civil disobedience as a necessary measure to combat climate change by halting the transportation of coal and oil by train through Spokane.

Human activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, is contributing to climate change. Today, both land and ocean ecosystems are severely damaged, destabilized by the effects of excessive greenhouse gases. The rail transportation of fossil fuels is part of a chain of activities accelerating global warming.

In 2016, Judge Ann Aiken of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon (Eugene Division), in the case of Juliana v. United States, held that people possess a fundamental constitutional right to a "climate system capable of sustaining human life." In that same opinion, Judge Aiken held that a "stable climate system is quite literally the foundation of society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress." Judge Aiken further declared, "this Court simply holds that where a complaint alleges governmental action is affirmatively and substantially damaging the climate system in a way that will cause human deaths, shorten human lifespans, result in widespread damage to property, threaten human food sources, and dramatically alter the planet's ecosystem, it states a claim for a due process violation."

Dr. Gunnar Holmquist, the lead plaintiff in the case, stated, "We've brought this lawsuit against the federal government because its role in enabling the extraction and burning of more and more fossil fuels amounts to a death sentence. The planet is burning up and the federal government's lack of action to stop this human-caused catastrophe is frankly unconscionable and criminal."

CELDF attorney Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin added, "A fundamental principle in American law is that the government cannot violate people's rights. Here, because federal law purports to prevent the City from making laws to protect people from coal, oil, and gas trains, that federal law is unconstitutional. It violates the people's right to a healthy climate, and the right of local community self-government. It prevents us from using our local governments to protect our health and safety. Protecting our rights, and our health and safety, is, fundamentally, what government is for."

Judge Rice may deliver a decision from the bench on the July 12 or in a written opinion provided after the hearing.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A grizzly bear sow with cub in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Danita Delimont / Gallo Images / Getty Images Plus

Grizzly bears in Wyoming and Idaho won't be subject to a trophy hunt thanks to a federal court decision Wednesday upholding endangered species protections for these iconic animals.

Read More Show Less
Oregano oil is an extract that is not as strong as the essential oil, but appears to be useful both when consumed or applied to the skin. Peakpx / CC by 1.0

By Alexandra Rowles

Oregano is a fragrant herb that's best known as an ingredient in Italian food.

However, it can also be concentrated into an essential oil that's loaded with antioxidants and powerful compounds that have proven health benefits.

Read More Show Less
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro meets Ronaldo Caiado, governor of the state of Goiás on June 5, 2020. Palácio do Planalto / CC BY 2.0

Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has presided over the world's second worst coronavirus outbreak after the U.S., said Tuesday that he had tested positive for the virus.

Read More Show Less
Although natural gas produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, it is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Skitterphoto / PIxabay

By Emily Grubert

Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.

Read More Show Less
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved two Lysol products as the first to effectively kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces, based on laboratory testing. Paul Hennessy / NurPhoto via Getty Images

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a list of 431 products that are effective at killing viruses when they are on surfaces. Now, a good year for Lysol manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser just got better when the EPA said that two Lysol products are among the products that can kill the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveils the Green New Deal resolution in front of the U.S. Capitol on February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

By Judith Lewis Mernit

For all its posturing on climate change, the Democratic Party has long been weak on the actual policies we need to save us from extinction. President Barack Obama promised his presidency would mark "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow," and then embraced natural gas, a major driver of global temperature rise, as a "bridge fuel." Climate legislation passed in the House in 2009 would have allowed industries to buy credits to pollute, a practice known to concentrate toxic air in black and brown neighborhoods while doing little to cut emissions.

Read More Show Less

Trending

About 30,000 claims contending that Roundup caused non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are currently unsettled. Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0

Bayer's $10 billion settlement to put an end to roughly 125,000 lawsuits against its popular weed killer Roundup, which contains glyphosate, hit a snag this week when a federal judge in San Francisco expressed skepticism over what rights future plaintiffs would have, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Read More Show Less