Quantcast
Climate

Massive Victory for 7 Kids in Climate Change Lawsuit in Washington State

Today, in a surprise ruling from the bench in the critical climate case brought by youths against the State of Washington's Department of Ecology, King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill ordered the Department of Ecology to promulgate an emissions reduction rule by the end of 2016 and make recommendations to the state legislature on science-based greenhouse gas reductions in the 2017 legislative session.

Five of the seven youth petitioners with their attorney, Andrea Rodgers, after the hearing today. Photo credit: Our Children's Trust

Judge Hill also ordered the Department of Ecology to consult with the youth petitioners in advance of that recommendation. The youths were forced back to court after the Department of Ecology unexpectedly withdrew the very rulemaking efforts to reduce carbon emissions the agency told the judge it had underway. This case is one of several similar state, federal and international cases, all supported by Our Children's Trust, seeking the legal right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate.

“For the first time, a U.S. court not only recognized the extraordinary harms young people are facing due to climate change, but ordered an agency to do something about it," Andrea Rodgers, the Western Environmental Law Center attorney representing the seven youths, said. “Ecology is now court-ordered to issue a rule that fulfills its constitutional and public trust duty to ensure Washington does its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the planet."

In granting the youth a remedy, Judge Hill noted the extraordinary circumstances of the climate crisis, saying, “This is an urgent situation … these kids can't wait." The court discussed the catastrophic impacts of climate destabilization globally, including the impending loss of polar bears and low-lying countries like Bangladesh. The court explained that while it had no jurisdiction outside of Washington state, it did have jurisdiction over the Department of Ecology and would order the agency to comply with the law and do its part to address the crisis.

“It was absurd for Ecology to withdraw its proposed rule to reduce carbon emissions," petitioner Aji Piper, who is also a plaintiff on the federal constitutional climate lawsuit, supported by Our Children's Trust, said. “Especially after Judge Hill declared last fall that our 'very survival depends upon the will of [our] elders to act now … to stem the tide of global warming.' I think Ecology should be ashamed by its reversal of potentially powerful action and today, Judge Hill issued a significant ruling that should go down in history books. Our government must act to protect our climate for benefit of us and future generations."

After a landmark November, 2015 decision, in which Judge Hill found that the state has a “mandatory duty" to “preserve, protect and enhance the air quality for the current and future generations" and found the state's current standards to fail that standard dramatically, the Department of Ecology nonetheless unilaterally withdrew its proposed rule to reduce carbon emissions in the state in February, just months after Judge Hill specifically underscored the urgency of the climate crisis.

“This case explains why youth around this country and in several other countries, are forced to bring their governments to court to secure a healthy atmosphere and stable climate," Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel at Our Children's Trust, said. “Despite clear scientific evidence and judicial recognition of the urgency of the climate crisis, Washington and most governments across the U.S. and other countries are failing to take correspondingly urgent, science-based action. That failure unfairly consigns youth to a disproportionately bleak future against which they can only reasonably ask the courts to step in to address this most time sensitive issue of our time."

Related cases brought by youth to protect the atmosphere are pending before other U.S. courts in the federal district court in Oregon and in the state courts of North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Massachusetts and Oregon.

“This is a massive victory," petitioner Gabe Mandell said.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Neil Young's New Album EARTH Breaks All the Rules

Watch Susan Sarandon Share on Colbert Why She Broke Up With Hillary Clinton

Cousteau to SeaWorld: Captive Orcas 'Need to Be Released'

New Report Shows 'Natural Gas Increasingly Becoming an Unnecessary Bridge to Nowhere'

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
A snapping turtle held by a Virginia Tech researcher. Virginia Tech

Land Use and Pollution Lead to More Male Snapping Turtle Babies, Researchers Find

The sex of reptiles like snapping turtles is determined by the temperature of the nest, with warmer temperatures leading to female births and colder temperatures leading to male babies. Because of this, climate change is projected to increase the number of female turtle births. However, scientists have discovered that other human impacts on the environment are leading to conditions that actually produce more males.

Keep reading... Show less

Organic Agriculture Is Going Mainstream, But Not the Way You Think It Is

By Jeremy L. Caradonna

One of the biggest knocks against the organics movement is that it has begun to ape conventional agriculture, adopting the latter's monocultures, reliance on purchased inputs and industrial processes.

Keep reading... Show less
View of the UN Bonn Campus on May 16, 2017. UNclimatechange / Flickr

‘Business Unusual’ Must Be the Mantra in Bonn as UN Climate Talks Resume Next Week

As the 2018 climate talks kick off under the auspices of the UN next week, "business unusual" must be the mantra delegations need heard resoundingly in Bonn, said the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Speaking ahead of the start of the meeting, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF's global climate and energy programme leader, said the window of opportunity to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C is fast closing.

Keep reading... Show less
UNAMID provided emergency aid for displaced people in Mellit, North Darfur on April 6, 2014. Hamid Abdulsalam, UNAMID / Flickr

Climate Is a 'Threat Multiplier' But Not Primary Cause of East African Conflict and Displacement, Study Finds

While there are predictions that climate change will displace masses of people in the near future—an Environmental Justice Foundation study reported on by The Guardian put the number in the tens of millions within the next decade—some have indicated that the climate refugee crisis has already begun.

The Syrian civil war has been linked to a massive drought in the region, and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the conflict in Darfur one of "the first climate wars" in 2007.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Central Park. Ingfbruno / CC BY-SA 3.0

New York's Central Park Is Going Car-Free

One of the world's most iconic parks is going vehicle-free this summer; New York City is banning all cars and trucks from Central Park.

"This park was not built for automobiles," Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday in Central Park. "It was built for people."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Health
Infant receiving polio vaccine. CDC Global / CC BY 2.0

Did the Polio Vaccine Cause Cancer?

By Vanessa Schipani, FactCheck.org

Q: Did people develop cancer because of the polio vaccine?

A: There are no known cases, and it's very unlikely. In the 1950s and 1960s, people did receive polio vaccines contaminated with a virus that causes cancer in rodents. But research suggests this virus doesn't cause cancer in humans.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
The research icebreaker Polarstern in the central Arctic Ocean. Alfred-Wegener-Institute / Ruediger Stein

'Nowhere Is Immune': Researchers Find Record Levels of Microplastics in Arctic Sea Ice

Scientists found record levels of microplastics in Arctic sea ice, a study published Tuesday in Nature Communications revealed.

Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) sampled ice from five Arctic Ocean regions and found up to 12,000 microplastic particles per liter (approximately 1.06 liquid quarts) of ice, an AWI press release reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

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