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 ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Health
Pexels

5 Ingredients for Health: Starting with Food

On Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg, Dr. Robert Graham—board-certified physician and founder of FRESHMed NYC—combines mainstream medical practices with therapies inspired by ancient wisdom: an integrative model of medicine. "My dad was a biochemist, so I grew up in this integrative model. One of the things that really stood out is my mom was distrustful about the conventional Western model. She still thinks she's the only doctor in the house, because food is such a powerful medicine, especially from her culture," said Graham.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Malte Mueller / Getty Images

When Profit Drives Us, Community Suffers

By David Korten

As I was reading the current series of YES! articles on the mental health crisis, I received an email from Darcia Narvaez, professor of psychology at University of Notre Dame. She was sending me articles being prepared for an anthology she is co-editing with the working title Sustainable Vision.The articles present lessons from indigenous culture that underscore why community is the solution to so much of what currently ails humanity.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
The Revelator

Interactive Map: Air Pollution in 2100

By Dipika Kadaba

Having a little trouble breathing lately? That's no surprise. Air pollution is already bad in many parts of the country, and climate change is only going to make it worse. Even though many industries are reducing their emissions, a warming climate could actually offset these reductions by intensifying the rates of chemical reactions and accumulation of pollutants in the environment.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
ddukang / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good for You? A Doctor Weighs In

By Gabriel Neal

When my brother and I were kids back in the '80s, we loved going to Long John Silver's.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals

Dumpster Debacle Distracts From Serious Spike in Whale Deaths

This week, a video of a failed attempt to put a dead, 4,000-pound whale into a tiny dumpster made the rounds on the internet, garnering chuckles and comparisons to Peter Griffin forklifting and impaling a beached sperm whale on Family Guy.

The juvenile minke whale washed up on Jenness Beach in Rye, New Hampshire on Monday morning, NBC 10 Boston reported. It was found with entanglement wounds, so researchers with the Seacoast Science Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) wanted to move the carcass from the beach to a lab for a necropsy to study its death.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
Muir Woods, which costs $10 for entry, will have free entry on Sept. 22. m01229 / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Visit Any National Park for Free This Saturday to Celebrate 25th National Public Lands Day

If you're stuck for plans this weekend, we suggest escaping your city or town for the great outdoors.

This Saturday marks the 25th National Public Lands Day, organized by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF).

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
A glacier flows towards East Antarctica. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / CC BY 2.0

Temperatures Possible This Century Could Melt Parts of East Antarctic Ice Sheet, Raise Sea Levels 10+ Feet

A section of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet that contains three to four meters (approximately 10 to 13 feet) of potential sea level rise could melt if temperatures rise to just two degrees above pre-industrial levels, a study published in Nature Wednesday found.

Researchers at Imperial College London, the University of Queensland, and other institutions in New Zealand, Japan and Spain looked at marine sediments to assess the behavior of the Wilkes Subglacial Basin during warmer periods of the Pleistocene and found evidence of melting when temperatures in Antarctica were at least two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels for periods of 2,500 years or more.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Oil well in North Dakota. Tim Evanson / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Pipeline Leaks 63,840 Gallons of Produced Water in North Dakota

A pipeline released 63,840 gallons (1,520 barrels) of produced water that contaminated rangeland in Dunn County, North Dakota, the Bismarck Tribune reported, citing officials with the North Dakota Department of Health.

Produced water is a byproduct of oil and gas extraction, and can contain drilling chemicals if fracking was used.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

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