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Trial Date Set in Kids Climate Lawsuit Against U.S. Government

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U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin issued an order Thursday in the climate lawsuit brought by 21 youth, Juliana v. United States, setting a trial date for Feb. 5, 2018 before U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken in Eugene, Oregon.


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.

"On February 5, 2018, science, not alternative facts, will be presented to the court to establish that our nation's children and grandchildren are being victimized by climate change," said Philip L. Gregory, co-lead counsel for plaintiffs. "Given our excellent panel of experts, and the ongoing problems created by the Trump Administration, we believe the court will use the constitution and the public trust doctrine to protect our climate from further serious damage."

Several of the youth plaintiffs issued statements:

"I'm excited that we have a date now," said Jayden Foytlin, 14, of Rayne, Louisiana. "I think we are all looking forward to our day in court. I feel like we are that much closer to justice."

"The Trump Administration plays directly into the hands of fossil fuel industries while ignoring the impending dangers of climate change and his responsibility as a leader to protect our future," said Nathan Baring, 17, of Fairbanks, Alaska. "Why should the industry bother spending millions on a legal defense when they have a vicious advocate in the White House already fighting for their interests?"

"Despite incessant efforts by government and industry to prevent our case from moving forward, the date is set for trial," said Alex Loznak, 20, of Roseburg, Oregon. "Having seen some of the most damning evidence to be presented at trial, I am confident that our claims will prevail."

The order also released three fossil fuel industry trade associations, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the American Petroleum Institute (API), and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), as defendants in the case, without placing any conditions on their withdrawal.

When the youth plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in 2015, they did not name NAM, API or AFPM as defendants. The associations joined together to intervene in November 2015 on the side of the U.S. government defendants, but last month, all three industry groups submitted motions seeking the court's permission to withdraw from the case.

Linda Kelly, NAM general counsel, recently said that because of the shift in administrations, NAM "no longer feel[s] that [its] participation in this case is needed to safeguard industry and [its] workers."

"Over 18 months ago, these fossil fuel associations went to incredible lengths to become defendants so that they could shut down this case," said Julia Olson, co-lead counsel for plaintiffs and executive director of Our Children's Trust. "They failed, and youth prevailed. Now these youth and the top climate experts on the planet can go to trial against the Trump administration."

On June 9, the Trump administration filed a petition for writ of mandamus with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking an extraordinarily rare review of a Nov. 10, 2016 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken to deny its motion to dismiss the case. The Ninth Circuit has not requested the parties to submit briefs on the government's petition, and could deny it without doing so.

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