Plaintiffs in Landmark Climate Lawsuit Answer Trump’s Mandamus Petition
Attorneys representing 21 youth plaintiffs in the landmark climate case Juliana v. United States filed an answer to the Trump administration's mandamus petition Monday with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In their answer, attorneys make clear that the U.S. government already admitted that its actions imperil youth plaintiffs with "dangerous, and unacceptable economic, social, and environmental risks," and that "the use of fossil fuels is a major source of [greenhouse gas] emissions, placing our nation on an increasingly costly, insecure and environmentally dangerous path."
Attorneys for the youth plaintiffs also point to their July 20 deposition of Dr. Michael Kuperberg, head of the federal climate research program, who testified that he is "fearful," that "increasing levels of CO2 pose risks to humans and the natural environment," and that he does not "think current federal actions are adequate to safeguard the future."
The Trump administration originally filed the mandamus petition on June 9, arguing the Ninth Circuit's intervention was necessary due to what it characterized as burdensome discovery issues. On July 28 a panel of judges from the Ninth Circuit ordered youth plaintiffs' attorneys to answer the petition. Now, the Trump administration will have 14 days to reply to the youth plaintiffs' answer before the Ninth Circuit panel makes its ruling. Before the Trump administration filed the mandamus petition, the district court had issued an order for trial to begin on Feb. 5, 2018 in Eugene, Oregon, with Judge Ann Aiken presiding.
"We are headed to catastrophic sea level rise a lot faster than we have anticipated. If we act now, we may not be able to save Naples and Miami and other low-lying regions. But if we do not act now, we have no chance to protect plaintiff Levi's barrier island, and we will also be heading towards losing Orlando and many other places presently above any projected sea level rise."
A declaration submitted by Levi Draheim, 10-year-old Florida resident and youth plaintiff in the case reads:
"I'm scared about how climate change impacts and ocean acidification will continue to harm the beaches and streams in Florida and the wildlife that inhabit them. I can already notice the beaches around me getting smaller because of sea level rise. The reason why I care so much is I basically grew up on the beach. It is like another mother, sort of, to me."
Julia Olson, co-lead counsel for plaintiffs and executive director of Our Children's Trust, avowed:
"What's clear is the burden of climate change impacts faced by our young plaintiffs far outweigh the federal government's exaggerated burden in participating in pretrial discovery. Even so, we have no interest in drawn out discovery and will work with attorneys from the DOJ to move this case expeditiously to trial in February."
Phil Gregory, co-lead counsel for plaintiffs and partner with Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP, in Burlingame, California, said:
"The Fifth Amendment provides Americans the fundamental rights to personal security, property, life, and family autonomy and security. The federal court has decided that our youth plaintiffs have properly brought a complaint that the U.S. government's actions in causing climate change infringe upon those rights. Right now, the federal government is trying every trick to deny these youth access to a trial that will protect their rights. We are confident the courts will properly protect the youth of America from the growing climate crisis."
The Ninth Circuit invited the District Court of Oregon to answer the petition as well. In response, the District Court filed via a letter on August 25, referring to the issues presented by the youth's case as "vitally important." The letter, signed by federal Judge Ann Aiken and Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin, affirmed:
"In short, we do not believe that the government will be irreversibly damaged by proceeding to trial. In our view, any error that we may have committed (or may commit in the future) can be corrected through the normal route of a direct appeal following final judgment. Indeed, we believe that permitting this case to proceed to trial will produce better results on appeal by distilling the legal and factual questions that can only emerge from a fully developed record."
The letter filed by the judges also recognized that the fossil fuel industry's broad denial of all allegations in the complaint was in part responsible for the original scope of the youth plaintiffs' discovery requests. The letter went on to conclude that the withdrawal of three trade association defendants from the case in June should allow the plaintiffs to substantially narrow their discovery requests.
Juliana v. United States was brought by 21 young plaintiffs, and Earth Guardians, who argue that their constitutional and public trust rights are being violated by the government's creation of climate danger. The case is one of many related legal actions brought by youth in several states and countries, all supported by Our Children's Trust, seeking science-based action by governments to stabilize the climate system.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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