NEWS & EVENTS
August 25, 2016
Youth Recommend Science-Based Climate Standard to UN Committee on Rights of the Child
August 18, 2016
Colorado Communities Back Youths' Critical Fracking Lawsuit
July 27, 2016
Pennsylvania Court Disregards Constitutional Obligation to Protect Natural Resources for Present and Future Generations
July 25, 2016
WA Youths Provide Inslee Administration with Climate Science to Make Proposed Clean Air Rule Comply With Law
July 12, 2016
Media Advisory: Inslee Administration to hold Public Hearings on the Proposed Clean Air Rule that Defies Court Order
June 29, 2016
Pakistan Supreme Court Allows Youth’s Constitutional Climate Case to Proceed on Behalf of Present and Future Generations
At a hearing in Karachi, the Pakistan Supreme Court heard arguments from public interest environmental attorney Qazi Ali Athar and ruled in favor of seven-year-old youth petitioner Rabab Ali. The Court overruled the registrar's previous rejection of the petition and ruled that Rabab's constitutional climate change lawsuit is allowed to proceed to the merits of her case.
June 24, 2016
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez sits down with Bill Maher on Real Time
June 22, 2016
Our Children's Trust executive director, Julia Olson, and federal plaintiff Alex Loznak talk with Thom Hartmann on The Big Picture
June 22, 2016
New Report on Climate Litigation Features Youth-Led Cases Supported by Our Children's Trust
The report, CLIMATE JUSTICE: The international momentum towards climate litigation, documents the growing number of climate change cases being brought across the world. Here are some key excerpts from the Executive Summary:
"Climate litigation has spread beyond the US into new jurisdictions throughout Asia, the Pacific and Europe. Claimants are not only targeting the ‘Carbon Majors’, who are the world’s largest producers of oil, coal and gas,but are also targeting the governments around the world that are continuing to support and collude with the Carbon Majors by promoting, subsidizing and approving a fossil-fuel based energy system,with the full knowledge of the catastrophic impacts of climate destabilization and ocean acidification that would result from continuing to burn fossil fuels."
"Governments need to be held to their own affirmative fiduciary and constitutional responsibilities to their citizens to protect essential natural resources for the benefit of all present and future generations . . . Without this shift to judicial recognition and enforcement of sovereign governmental obligations to protect shared natural resources, including a healthy atmosphere, ocean and climate system, in accordance with the best available science, as well as private liability, legislative and executive action on the global domestic and international levels will remain as ineffective in the future as it has been in the past."
June 16, 2016
Press Release: WA Gov. Doubles Down on Betraying Youth
Seattle – Yesterday, in an act betraying the youth of Washington, “green” Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration appealed a Washington Superior Court decision ordering his administration to issue a rule limiting greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the year. Today, Inslee published an op-ed touting his climate record in The Hill with no mention of the case or his administration’s anti-environment appeal of the decision.
Inslee’s appeal of the youth win in court comes just six weeks after his office and his campaign praised the decision, and two weeks after the June 1, 2016 rollout of his proposed Clean Air Rule, supported by the fossil fuel and aluminum industries.
Following King County Superior Court Judge Hollis R. Hill’s unprecedented April 29, 2016 ruling in favor of eight young people and against the Department of Ecology, Inslee’s reelection campaign immediately sent out an email praising the victory:
“Thanks to those eight kids, the court has affirmed our plan to act, contrary to the assertion of those who continue to obstruct action on climate change and ocean acidification…That’s why this election is so important.”
June 9, 2016
Press Release: Aiken to Hear Youth v. United States Climate Case
Eugene, Oregon (USA) – Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken scheduled oral argument for youths’ landmark climate lawsuit for September 13, at 10 am PST in Eugene, OR. The 21 young plaintiffs received a favorable decision in their case brought against the federal government and fossil fuel industry from U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin back in April. Now, they are looking forward to their next opportunity to appear in court to fight for climate justice.
“I am excited that Judge Aiken is interested in hearing our oral argument this September,” said plaintiff Kiran Oommen, a 19-year-old from Eugene, Oregon. “The U.S. government’s continued support of the fossil fuel industry, despite the obvious high risks, is hurting people all the time and it’s getting worse. With incidents like the oil train derailment and proceeding disaster in Mosier, Oregon this month, we can see the direct negative consequences of the government’s blatant disregard for the health and safety of the people. The longer this case lasts, the greater the evidence will be condemning their actions.”
June 2, 2016
Media Advisory: Pennsylvania Youth Head to Court to Fight for Constitutional Rights to Stable Climate
WHAT: A panel of judges in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania will hear oral arguments in the constitutional and public trust climate change case brought by seven young plaintiffs against Gov. Tom Wolf and six state agencies. This case is part of a national youth-led campaign organized by Our Children’s Trust. The effort has resulted in recent wins in Massachusetts and Washington state.
WHEN: Monday, June 6, 2016
Hearing begins at 1:00 p.m. EST; please arrive by 12:30 to secure your seat
WHERE: Suite 3001, Pennsylvania Judicial Center
601 Commonwealth Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17106
WHY: Plaintiffs are asking the defendants to take necessary steps to regulate Pennsylvania’s carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases consistent with the Commonwealth’s duty and obligations as public trustee under Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution to conserve and maintain public natural resources, including the atmosphere, for the benefit of present and future generations. They contend that the Wolf administration and the six agencies are violating their constitutional and public trust rights as a result of decades of promoting the development and use of fossil fuels in Pennsylvania.
The suit was filed by the Environmental & Natural Resources Law Clinic, at Widener University Delaware Law School, with Associate Professor of Law and Clinic Director Kenneth T. Kristl as lead counsel. The Clinic prepares Delaware Law School students for practice by involving them in environmental cases and appeals like this one.
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.
Ashley Funk, one of the seven plaintiffs, was recently featured on Heat of The Moment, WBEZ Chicago’s long-term project about climate change. Listen to her share her story about growing up in coal country here.
June 1, 2016
Press Release: Inslee Administration Defies Court Order, Betrays Children
Seattle, WA – Today, the Inslee administration released its revised Clean Air Rule that defies an unprecedented May 16, 2016 court order issued by King County Superior Court Judge Hollis R. Hill, and fails the children of Washington. Judge Hill ordered the state to adopt a rule “to limit greenhouse gas emissions in Washington” by the end of the year.
The proposed Clean Air Rule, however, is based on outdated emissions data and only requires emissions reductions of a mere 1.7 percent annually, completely disregarding current science that would put Washington on a path toward climate stability.
May 23, 2016
The New York Times features expert opinions in support of youth's climate lawsuit
Today, The New York Times featured Our Children's Trust and the lawsuits brought by young people in its 'Room for Debate' column.
Three of the four debaters are in support of the youth's lawsuits. Click on the images below to read their opinions.
May 17, 2016
Press Release: Youth Win Climate Case in Massachusetts Supreme Court
Today, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found in favor of four youth plaintiffs, all supported by Our Children's Trust, the Conservation Law Foundation, and Mass Energy Consumers Alliance, in the critical climate change case, Kain et al. v. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. The Court found that the DEP was not complying with its legal obligation to reduce the State’s GHG emissions and ordered the agency to “promulgate regulations that address multiple sources or categories of sources of greenhouse gas emissions, impose a limit on emissions that may be released . . . and set limits that decline on an annual basis.”
May 5, 2016
DW Deutsche Welle, Germany's international broadcaster, interviews Tia Hatton & Julia Olson
Click below to listen to the amazing full interview with federal youth plaintiff Tia Hatton, 19 and OCT's executive director and chief legal counsel, Julia Olson.
April 29, 2016
Press Release: Youths Secure Second Win In Washington State Climate Lawsuit
Seattle, WA – 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 (“Ecology”), King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill ordered 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. Judge Hill also ordered Ecology to consult with the youth petitioners in advance of that recommendation. The youths were forced back to court after 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.
April 14, 2016
Democracy Now! | "Landmark Climate Lawsuit: Meet the Youth Activists Suing the U.S. Government & Fossil Fuel Industry"
Today, Amy Goodman sat down with our executive director and chief legal counsel, Julia Olson and 15-year-old federal plaintiff Aji Piper on Democracy Now! to discuss our landmark climate lawsuit and what the big April 8 decision means for the case and the planet. Watch the full video below.
April 8, 2016
Press Release: VICTORY IN LANDMARK CLIMATE CASE!
FEDERAL COURT AFFIRMS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF KIDS AND DENIES MOTIONS OF GOVERNMENT AND FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY IN YOUTH’S LANDMARK CLIMATE CHANGE CASE
Today, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin of the federal District Court in Eugene, OR, decided in favor of 21 young Plaintiffs, and Dr. James Hansen on behalf of future generations, in their landmark constitutional climate change case brought against the federal government and the fossil fuel industry. The Court’s ruling is a major victory for the 21 youth Plaintiffs, ages 8-19, from across the U.S. in what Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein call the “most important lawsuit on the planet right now.” These plaintiffs sued the federal government for violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, and their right to essential public trust resources, by permitting, encouraging, and otherwise enabling continued exploitation, production, and combustion of fossil fuels.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Philip Gregory with Cotchett, Pitre, & McCarthy of Burlingame, CA, said: “This decision is one of the most significant in our nation’s history. The Court upheld our claims that the federal government intensified the danger to our plaintiffs’ lives, liberty and property. Judge Coffin decided our Complaint will move forward and put climate science squarely in front of the federal courts. The next step is for the Court to order our government to cease jeopardizing the climate system for present and future generations. The Court gave America’s youth a fair opportunity to be heard.”
As part of Friday’s historic decision, Judge Coffin characterized the case as an “unprecedented lawsuit” addressing “government action and inaction” resulting “in carbon pollution of the atmosphere, climate destabilization, and ocean acidification.” In deciding the case will proceed, Judge Coffin wrote: “The debate about climate change and its impact has been before various political bodies for some time now. Plaintiffs give this debate justiciability by asserting harms that befall or will befall them personally and to a greater extent than older segments of society. It may be that eventually the alleged harms, assuming the correctness of plaintiffs' analysis of the impacts of global climate change, will befall all of us. But the intractability of the debates before Congress and state legislatures and the alleged valuing of short term economic interest despite the cost to human life, necessitates a need for the courts to evaluate the constitutional parameters of the action or inaction taken by the government. This is especially true when such harms have an alleged disparate impact on a discrete class of society.”
April 6, 2016
Press Release: In Wake of WA Climate Rule Withdrawal, Youth Petitioners Return to Court
SEATTLE – Today, the youth petitioners in a precedent-setting case over climate disruption in Washington state asked the court to step in yet again after the state Department of Ecology withdrew its proposed rule to reduce carbon emissions. By withdrawing the proposed rule, Ecology demonstrated it is unable or unwilling to fulfill its legal responsibilities absent a court order directing it to do so in a timely manner.
“This is incredibly devastating to us, because we spent a lot of time and energy working on our lawsuit, and it feels like no one cares at all about our futures,” said Wren Wagenbach, a youth petitioner in the case. “We are so frustrated that Ecology made the decision to withdraw the rule that Governor Inslee directed them to do! They know they have to move quickly, but they just can’t seem to get it done,” said youth petitioners Lara and Athena Fain.
April 5, 2016
Press Release: Youth Files Constitutional Climate Petition with the Supreme Court of Pakistan
Karachi, Pakistan – Today, a 7-year-old girl, Rabab Ali, through her father and pro bono environmental attorney Qazi Ali Athar, and on behalf of all the Pakistani people, filed a climate change lawsuit against the Federation of Pakistan and the Province of Sindh in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The Constitution Petition asserts that, through the exploitation and continued promotion of fossil fuels, in particular dirty coal, the Pakistan and Sindh governments have violated the Public Trust Doctrine and the youngest generation’s fundamental constitutional rights to life, liberty, property, human dignity, information, and equal protection of the law.
“The protection of these inalienable and fundamental rights is essential if we are to have any chance of leaving our children and future generations with a stable climate system and environment capable of sustaining human life,” said Qazi Ali Athar, public interest environmental attorney representing his daughter as youth petitioner in the case. “Pakistan is rich in renewable energy resources such as solar and wind, more than enough to meet the energy needs of current and future generations of Pakistanis. Yet the federal and provincial governments of Pakistan, along with the vested interests in the country and the region, are exploiting Pakistan’s most environmentally degrading and carbon intensive fuels—low-grade coal from the Thar Coal Reserves—in violation of the Pakistani people’s constitutionally protected fundamental rights.”
April 4, 2016
Press Release: Colorado Youth File Appeal After Court Places Oil & Gas Development Above Public Health Interests
Denver, Colorado – Today, six youth plaintiffs appealed Denver District Court Judge Eric Elliff’s adverse decision to their fracking and climate change lawsuit. In his decision, Judge Elliff affirmed the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s order to deny the fracking petition brought by the young plaintiffs, determining that the Commission is required to “strike a balance between the regulation of oil and gas operations and protecting public health, the environment, and wildlife resources.”
“Our health and safety are on the line,” said Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, 15-year-old plaintiff and youth director of Earth Guardians. “For the future of all Coloradans, it was imperative for us to file this appeal. It’s a preposterous idea that the Commission need to strike a balance between regulation of oil and gas operations and protecting the health of Coloradans. The Commission’s priority should be the health and safety of us, the people. Right now, our government is putting their profits above our futures and that needs to stop.”
March 12, 2016
Rolling Stone | "Why Young Americans Are Suing Obama Over Climate Change"
Click the image below to read the full article!
March 11, 2016
The Weather Channel | "Teens Sue U.S. Government for Lack of Climate Change Defense"
March 9, 2016
Press Release: Hundreds Pack Oregon Courthouse to Support Youth in Landmark Climate Change Case
Hundreds of students, activists, professors, and citizens concerned about climate turned out for a historic hearing in Eugene, Oregon to support 21 young plaintiffs, ages 8-19, in what Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein call the “most important lawsuit on the planet right now.” The plaintiffs’ sued the federal government for violating their fundamental constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by taking actions that permit, encourage, and otherwise enable continued exploitation, production, and combustion of fossil fuels.
The purpose of Wednesday’s hearing was to hear arguments from the parties on the federal government’s and fossil fuel industry's motions to dismiss the youth’s climate change lawsuit. The judge conducted incisive questioning of lawyers presenting oral argument for both sides on the issue. The hearing lasted for two hours. It’s unclear when he will reach a decision on the defendants’ motions, but the youth plaintiffs are optimistic the Judge will treat their case fairly.
“Defendants are wrong that our complaint fails to allege constitutional and public trust violations for the harms caused these young plaintiffs,” said Julia Olson, lead counsel for the plaintiffs and Executive Director of Our Children’s Trust, in her closing argument. “Defendants in essence ask this court to ignore the undisputed scientific evidence, presented in our complaint and in opposing this motion, that the federal government has, and continues to, damage plaintiffs’ personal security and other fundamental rights. But these young plaintiffs have the right to prove the government’s role in harming them has been knowing and deliberate.”
March 9, 2016
CNN | "Climate kids take on the feds"
March 9, 2016
The Nation | "21 Kids Are Suing President Obama Over Climate Inaction"
March 9, 2016
The Guardian | "Teens Challenge US Government for not protecting them from climate change"
March 2, 2016
Press Release: State of Washington Delays Action on Climate Change - Again
SEATTLE – On Friday, Feb. 26, the Washington Department of Ecology withdrew its proposed rule to reduce carbon emissions in the state. The rule was supposed to remedy a lawsuit brought by eight youth petitioners against the state of Washington, in which Judge Hollis R. Hill declared "[the youths’] very survival depends upon the will of their elders to act now, decisively and unequivocally, to stem the tide of global warming…before doing so becomes first too costly and then too late."
"This is incredibly devastating to us, because we spent a lot of time and energy working on our lawsuit, and it feels like no one cares at all about our futures," said Wren Wagenbach, a youth petitioner in the case. "We are so shocked that Ecology made the decision to withdraw the rule that Governor Inslee directed them to do! We can't understand this at all,” said youth petitioners Lara and Athena Fain.
February 23, 2016
Press Release: Colorado Court Places Oil & Gas Development Above Public Health Interests
Denver, Colorado – On Friday, Denver District Court Judge J. Eric Elliff affirmed Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s (COGCC) order to deny the fracking petition brought by seven young plaintiffs, stating that the Commission is required to “strike a balance between the regulation of oil and gas operations and protecting public health, the environment, and wildlife resources.” Judge Elliff is not the judge who was originally assigned the case and who denied the COGCC’s earlier motion to dismiss the case.
“It’s a preposterous idea that the Commission need to strike a balance between regulation of oil and gas operations and protecting the health of Coloradans,” said Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, 15-year-old petitioner and youth director of Earth Guardians. “The Commission’s priority should be the health and safety of us, the people. Right now, our government is putting their profits above our futures and that needs to stop. I’m working with my attorneys to discuss next steps.”
January 22, 2016
Moyers & Company | "Kids Suing Government for Climate Action Attract Influential Allies and Opponents"
January 13, 2016
Press Release: Fossil Fuel Industry Becomes Named Defendant in Youths’ Landmark Constitutional Climate Lawsuit
Eugene, OR – Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin of the federal District Court in Oregon granted defendant status to three trade associations, representing nearly all of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies. The three associations had moved to intervene in the constitutional climate change lawsuit brought by 21 young people from around the country. The newly named trade association defendants are the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (“AFPM”) (representing Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell, Koch Industries, and virtually all other U.S. refiners and petrochemical manufacturers), the American Petroleum Institute (“API”) (representing 625 oil and natural gas companies), and the National Association of Manufacturers (“NAM”).
“We believe Judge Coffin was wise to allow the fossil fuel industry into our constitutional case,” offered Philip Gregory, of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy in Burlingame, CA. Gregory serves as an attorney for the young Plaintiffs. “The fossil fuel industry would not want to be in court unless it understood the significance of our case. This litigation is a momentous threat to fossil fuel companies. They are determined to join the federal government to defeat the constitutional claims asserted by these youth Plaintiffs. The fossil fuel industry and the federal government lining up against 21 young citizens. That shows you what is at stake here.”
The fossil fuel powerhouses call the youth’s case “extraordinary” and “a direct, substantial threat to [their] businesses.” During Wednesday’s hearing, the industry argued that a decision in favor of plaintiffs on their legal claims will require a significant restructuring of the fossil fuel business model, such as potentially invalidating thousands of leases for fossil fuel extraction and development. “A finding of liability will necessarily lead to a remedy that will necessarily impact” the trade association members, said Quin Sorenson of Sidley Austin, counsel for AFPM, API, and NAM. Sorenson went on to argue that if the federal defendants are found liable for constitutional or public trust violations, that finding would in essence be a finding that the U.S. had acted unlawfully in permitting the fossil fuel activities of the associations’ member companies.
Judge Coffin agreed that a decision in plaintiffs’ favor would impact the interests of the fossil fuel intervenors. As a result, Judge Coffin wants to have the key interested parties in the courtroom should the case proceed to trial. Counsel for the trade associations confirmed the groups represent nearly every fossil fuel related company in America. In response to the Court’s questioning, the three trade associations stated they would all speak with “one unified voice” during the litigation.
January 4, 2016
Media Advisory: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to Hear Youth’s Climate Change Lawsuit
WHAT: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will hear oral argument in the important climate change case, Kain et al. v. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, brought by four inspiring youth plaintiffs, Conservation Law Foundation, and Mass Energy Consumers Alliance against the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
WHEN:Friday, January 8, 2016
Court hearing begins at 9:00 a.m.; please arrive by 8:30 a.m. to secure your seat.
There will also be a live webcast at: http://www.suffolk.edu/sjc/.
WHERE: Supreme Judicial Court
John Adams Courthouse
Courtroom 1, 2nd Floor
One Pemberton Square
WHY: The plaintiffs argue that the DEP has failed to promulgate regulations required by Section 3(d) of the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act that would establish declining annual levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Massachusetts is not on track to meet its 2020 greenhouse gas goal of 25% below 1990 levels – a fact that is directly related to DEP’s failure to issue the required regulations. The plaintiffs are working to ensure that Massachusetts is complying with the law and doing everything necessary to protect their right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate system.
The lawsuit was filed with the help of Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based non-profit orchestrating a game-changing, youth-driven legal campaign in the United States and across the world. The youth plaintiffs are being represented by attorneys at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C. in Boston.