Quantcast
Climate

Fossil Fuel Industry Files Motion to Intervene in Landmark Climate Lawsuit

They can't even vote yet, but a significant climate change lawsuit filed against the Federal Government by young people from around the country just got the attention of the powerful fossil fuel industry.

Yesterday, nearly every oil and gas company in the world asked for permission to oppose the landmark climate lawsuit brought against President Obama and the federal government by America’s youth and Dr. James E. Hansen—as guardian for future generations. In an unusual step, the immense fossil fuel industry trade groups all filed pleadings in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon seeking to join the lawsuit side by side with President Obama to protect their companies’ interests.

Nine of the 21 young people from across the U.S. that have filed a landmark constitutional climate change lawsuit against the federal government in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. Photo credit: Our Children's Trust

The proposed interveners constitute a veritable who’s who of major corporate polluters, including the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (representing members ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Koch Industries, and virtually all other U.S. refiners and petrochemical manufacturers), American Petroleum Institute (representing 625 oil and natural gas companies) and National Association of Manufacturers.

“The largest, best funded fossil fuel heavyweights want the court to protect their wallets over ensuring a habitable country for these young plaintiffs and future generations,” commented Philip Gregory of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, counsel to the plaintiffs.  “As the recent disclosures by Exxon reveal, our government and the fossil fuel industry have known for decades that fossil fuel extraction, production and consumption would destroy our climate in the upcoming decades. That is why this case is significant: a court needs to order our government to protect our kids and future generations.”

The lawsuit asserts the federal government has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty and property. It also claims the government failed to protect essential public trust resources by facilitating the exploitation of fossil fuels. The youth have asked the courts to order the federal government to prepare and implement a science-based national climate recovery plan.

The fossil fuel powerhouses call the youth’s case “extraordinary” and “a direct threat to [their] businesses.” They claim “significant reduction in [greenhouse gas] emissions would cause a significant negative effect on [their] members by constraining the sale of the product they have specialized in developing and selling.”

“The biggest fossil fuel polluters on the planet, including Exxon and Koch Industries, just asked the court for permission to argue that young people don’t have a constitutional right to life if it means reducing fossil fuel use,” said Julia Olson, executive director for Our Children’s Trust and lead counsel on the litigation. “With the president on his way to the UN Climate Talks in Paris later this month, a renewed alignment between our government and the fossil fuel industry could not be less welcome. This case asks the court to order what the industry fears most: a national plan using the best science we’ve got to try to leave clean air and a healthy climate to our kids.”

In seeking to join the case, the fossil fuel Industry argues that the court should focus on short-term economic benefits over a stable climate. The industry claims that “reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to bring atmospheric carbon dioxide levels down to 350 parts per million would abate some of the future risks of climate change, those reductions would nevertheless not be ‘appropriate’ if the future potential benefits would be outweighed by, for instance, enormous losses in productivity and economic development.”

The groups claim the fossil fuel companies “possess legally protectable interests in their members’ economic interests and legal rights in current and future contracts and transactions.” The trade groups assert the youth’s constitutional rights to breathe clean air do not trump the industry’s “concrete interests in the production, refining, and use of conventional fuels in the United States, as well as in stable and competitive energy prices.”

These young plaintiffs are challenging the federal government’s national fossil fuel programs, as well as the 1992 Energy Policy Act and the export permit for the proposed Jordan Cove LNG export terminal in Coos Bay, Oregon. Plaintiffs seek to hold President Obama and various federal agencies responsible for continued fossil fuel exploitation. Plaintiffs seek a court order requiring the president to immediately implement a national plan to decrease atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide to a safe level: 350 ppm by the year 2100. This case places indisputable climate science squarely in front of the federal judiciary, requesting an order that our government cease jeopardizing the climate system to the detriment of present and future generations.

“Big Oil is starting to lose control of our political system,” declared Alex Loznak, a youth plaintiff in the case from Oregon. “Last week, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, and New York State began to investigate Exxon's cover-up of climate science. The intervention of fossil fuel companies in our lawsuit against the federal government makes it clear that the industry is scared. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, 'First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.' The fight has begun, and we will win.”

“Seeing giant fossil fuel corporations inject themselves into this case, which is about our future, really demonstrates the problem we are trying to fix,” stated Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh Martinez of Earth Guardians, a youth plaintiff in the case from Colorado. “The Federal government has been making decisions in the best interest of multinational corporations and their profits, but not in the best interest of my generation and those to come. Instead of changing their business model to meet the scientific reality of climate change, these companies are demanding we adapt to an uninhabitable world that supports their profits. When you compare the two, I think it’s clear that our right to clean air and a healthy atmosphere, is more important than their “need” to make money off destroying our future.”

Nonetheless, the fossil fuel groups do not address in their pleadings the plaintiffs' constitutional claims, and though challenging the youth's standing to raise their claims, ignores the youth’s detailed description in their complaint of how each youth plaintiff is and will be harmed by the government’s actions and inactions.

“The science is clear,” said Dr. James Hansen. “To preserve a climate system conducive to humanity and nature alike, the burning of fossil fuel must be phased out without further delay, and completed within decades. It is the fundamental duty of our government to ensure that this is done in time to avert catastrophic sea level rise and other intolerable climate damage. I am not surprised that fossil fuel corporations seek to derail this case, but the fundamental rights of my granddaughter and future generations to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness must prevail.”

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Bill Nye, While Driving a Tesla, Shares 5 Ways to #BeUnstoppable

Awesome 5-Minute Video Urges Young People to Start a Farming Revolution

What is COP21? Find Out in This 2 Minute Video

Exxon + 49 Other Big Polluters Set to Be Investigated for Causing Extreme Weather Events

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Popular

New Mexico Tribes Step Up to Protect Land Before Fossil Fuels Vote

Native American tribes are voicing concerns and demanding input on regulations on fossil fuel development in a New Mexico county, in the latest wave of tribal voices growing louder on oil and gas development across the country.

Sandoval County, home to 12 Native tribes, will hold a final vote in January on a draft ordinance to regulate oil and gas development in the county. In packed public meetings over the proposed ordinance last week, tribal leaders called out the lack of tribal input in the draft ordinance and raised concerns over the ordinance's lack of protections for water, air and land resources.

Keep reading... Show less

Why Thanksgiving Is the Perfect Time to Give Up Meat

By Peter Kalmus

Of all our holidays, Thanksgiving is my favorite. It's a time out from the frenetic pace of life, a time for families to slow down and gather in the kitchen—to just be. It doesn't lend itself to the garish onslaught of commercialization. (You can sense the capitalist frustration and over-compensation in that oddest of add-ons, Black Friday). And for me, Thanksgiving was the perfect time to finally give up meat.

My journey to vegetarianism has been one of gradual awareness. In college, while living off campus, I discovered the wonders of cooking Indian food. Because the one cookbook I owned was from the Vaishnava tradition, my Indian cookery was strictly vegetarian. At a formative period of my life, I fell in love with the flavors of India. Those dishes never wanted for meat.

Keep reading... Show less
Red wolf in Randolph, North Carolina. Valerie / Flickr

Senate Republicans Push for Extinction of North Carolina's Red Wolf

Tucked away in the Senate report accompanying Monday's funding bill for the Department of the Interior is a directive to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to "end the Red Wolf recovery program and declare the Red Wolf extinct."

"Senate Republicans are trying to hammer a final nail in the coffin of the struggling red wolf recovery program," said Perrin de Jong, staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "It is morally reprehensible for Senator Murkowski and her committee to push for the extinction of North Carolina's most treasured wild predator. Instead of giving up on the red wolf, Congress should fund recovery efforts, something lawmakers have cynically blocked time and time again."

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Pexels

Connecting With Nature Improves Minds and Moods

By Marlene Cimons

Twentieth Century German social psychologist Erich Fromm first advanced the notion that humans hold an inborn connection to nature. Later, it was popularized by biologist E.O. Wilson as "the urge to affiliate with other forms of life." In the ensuing years, support for the positive effects of nature has gained considerable traction, grounded in a growing body of research.

In recent weeks, at least four new studies have emerged adding more validity to what science repeatedly has revealed: Being around nature is good for us. The latest research shows that interacting with nature makes the brain stronger and soothes the psyche.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
The Trump administration has proposed increased entry fees at 17 national parks, including the Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon National Park / Flickr

You Now Have More Time to Protest National Park Fee Hikes

Following widespread outrage, the National Parks Service (NPS) has extended the comment period for the public to weigh in on the proposed rate hikes at 17 of the most popular national parks across the country.

The comment period now closes Dec. 22, 2017. The original deadline had been set for Thursday.

Keep reading... Show less
Coral growth near Aqaba, Jordan. kaetidh / Flickr

Northern Red Sea Could Be Unique Global Warming Refuge for Coral

Lying at the northern tip of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aqaba might be able sustain its coral population for another 100 to 150 years, despite global warming, new research predicts.

Scientists from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the University of Essex and Al-Azhar University believe that a stretch of nearly 1,120 miles could become one of the few—and one of the largest—refuges for coral.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
An oil train moves through California's Central Valley. In 2009, 10,000 tank cars transported crude oil in the entire U.S. This one terminal alone proposed bringing in 73,000 cars a year. Elizabeth Forsyth / Earthjustice

Victory: Concerned Citizens and Environmental Groups Stop Oil Train in Its Tracks

A coalition of concerned citizens, environmental groups, and health and safety advocates successfully challenged the approval of a massive refinery and rail project that will further harm air quality in the San Joaquin Valley and subject residents in several states to the catastrophic risks of a derailment involving scores of tanker cars filled with explosive Bakken crude oil.

The Alon Bakersfield Refinery Crude Flexibility Project, approved by the Kern County Board of Supervisors, would have enabled the refinery to unload crude from more than 200 tanker train cars per day, allowing it to import up to 63.1 million barrels of crude oil per year. A lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Association of Irritated Residents, Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club claimed that Kern County's certification of an environmental impact report (EIR) failed to meet its legal duty to fully assess the project's risks and disclose them to the public. The court agreed.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

Keystone Pipeline Permit Could Be Revoked After Last Week's 210,000-Gallon Spill

TransCanada's permit to operate its Keystone tar sands pipeline in South Dakota could be revoked if an investigation into last week's 210,000-gallon leak determines that the pipeline operator violated its license, Reuters reported.

State regulators expressed concern that the Nov. 16 spill in Marshall County was not the first from the controversial pipeline.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

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