The following is a list of major news coverage about our work, as well as our press releases.
December 6, 2016
The New Yorker | The Teen-Agers Suing Over Climate Change
Like Loorz, Olson was moved to action by “An Inconvenient Truth,” which she saw when she was eight months pregnant with her first child. “I knew the facts, but seeing the visuals, seeing the whole story in front of me, was a different experience,” she told me. Some of her clients have had far more immediate experiences with the symptoms of climate change. Last August, Jayden Foytlin, a thirteen-year-old girl from southern Louisiana, became trapped in her flooded house during a severe rainstorm. (A later analysis found that the likelihood of such deluges in the region has increased at least forty per cent in the past century.) When I spoke with the Foytlins, just before Thanksgiving, they were still repairing the damage from the disaster; Jayden and her two brothers were using the living room as a makeshift bedroom. The flooding danger, their mother, Cherri, told me, has not eased. “If it rains real hard, we’ll be right back in the same situation,” she said. Jayden, however, is more concerned about the outcome of her case. “Sometimes I get scared that it’s not going to happen, that it’s going to get shut down, and that no one will take action on climate change,” she said.
December 6, 2016
Oregon Public Broadcasting | Climate Change Lawsuit
December 1, 2016
The Washington Post | Trump could face the ‘biggest trial of the century’ — over climate change
“It’s been called the biggest trial of the century, and it is,” said Mary Wood, a law professor at the University of Oregon and expert in natural resources and public trust law. “Literally, when I say the planet is on the docket, it would be hard to imagine a more consequential trial, because the fossil fuel policies of the entire United States of America are going to confront the climate science put forth by the world’s best scientists. And never before has that happened.”
Theoretically, the trial’s outcome could have major implications for the incoming Trump administration, which aims to dismantle many of the climate and energy priorities established under President Obama.
Should the plaintiffs prevail, the federal government could be forced to develop and adhere to stringent carbon-cutting measures aimed at preserving the planet’s climate future for generations to come. The only other place such action has ever been ordered by a court is in the Netherlands, where a similar case resulted in a landmark ruling last year requiring the Dutch government to slash its emissions by a quarter within five years.
December 1, 2016
CNN | EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy discussing climate change and the transition to the Donald J. Trump administration
*Despite 50 years of climate danger knowledge, Defendant says climate action "doesn't happen over night".
November 30, 2016
The Spectator | Northwest Youth Demand Climate Action
“It’s really inspiring to meet kids that are eight or nine years old and know about climate change, know all the stuff and can say ‘Yeah, I’m suing the federal government,’” Oommen said.
The group from Our Children’s Youth has won two hearings so far and has only seen increasing support over time. The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit with the intent of making the government responsible for their efforts or lack thereof—in the realm of climate change and the little they have done to prevent it.
“I think [the lawsuit] is good, but the government has a long history of devaluing the words and ideas of the youth,” said Trevor Ka’aihue, a junior computer science major and Resident Assistant for the Engineering our Future learning community.
Though the plaintiffs from Our Children’s Trust have a difficult road ahead of them, most were a part of the fight long before it was covered by the media.
Though a large part of the public is only now hearing about their efforts, it has been a long-standing endeavor on the part of the plaintiffs, spanning multiple years and enduring multiple obstacles in the court system.
November 29, 2016
Inhabit | 16-year-old activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez wins 2016 Children’s Climate Prize
Swedish renewable energy company Telge Energi awarded Martinez the prize, which is given to a kid between 10 and 16 who is working to help the environment. Telge Energi described Martinez as an “extraordinarily powerful voice in the climate debate worldwide.” The jury who chose Martinez praised his willingness to take on big interests such as the fossil fuel industry, and commended him for inspiring others to use their voices too, no matter their age.
The jury said, “Through his passion and love for climate issues, this year’s winner has already, at a young age, had an enormous impact on many people, from children and youth to people with power, to make decisions shaping the future of our planet. With a unique skill of connecting activism with political talent, he has demonstrated both passion and courage, not avoiding controversial issues such as calling for a ban on fracking in his own home state Colorado. By doing so, he has challenged strong political and economic powers. As a hip-hop artist with a clear message he has demonstrated the power of linking culture with environmental issues as a way to mobilize engagement and action.”
November 23, 2016
The Huffington Post | Kids Sue The Government For Not Protecting Them From Climate Change
The plaintiffs want the court to intervene and force the state’s Department of Ecology to require more drastic emissions reductions. The Clean Air Rule the department released, the youth group argues, only requires 19 companies in the state to reduce emissions by 1.7 percent ― a “grossly inadequate” amount for addressing climate change that doesn’t fulfill the previous court orders.
In court, the AP reported, the state’s lawyers argued that the previous court did not make any specific requirements for the Clean Air Rule. The policy the state adopted, the department told The Huffington Post, is one of the country’s most pioneering.
Lawsuits like these, the plaintiffs argued, are crucial given the poor outlook for climate change policy under a Donald Trump presidency.
“It’s a pretty grim time for people in this country who breathe air and drink water,” petitioner Aji Piper, 16, said outside the courthouse before the hearing. “Our president-elect is somebody who blatantly denies climate change and it’s a fact that makes the future of the children, my future, look pretty bleak.”
November 17, 2016
Boulder Weekly | ‘The biggest case on the planet’
When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, Mary Wood, law professor and faculty director of the Environmental and Natural Resources (ENR) Law Center at the University of Oregon, was expecting her third son. With a long career both practicing and teaching environmental and natural resources law, climate change was not a new concept for Wood. But in the wake of Katrina’s devastation, she began to see the connections between the future of the environment and the future of humanity more clearly.
“Climate [change] just hit me as this horrendous new reality that my child would be born into,” she says. “Every young person is facing an unthinkable future if we don’t get this problem under control.”
Wood has since become nationally recognized for her scholarship on the public trust doctrine, or the principle that public natural resources must be maintained as a lasting endowment for the public’s use. Recognizing the failure of statutory law to adequately deal with major environmental problems, Wood uses the public trust doctrine to compel government action on climate change. Her 2013 book, Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age, inspired Atmospheric Trust Litigation (ATL), the legal approach now being used in cases and petitions brought by the organization Our Children’s Trust (OCT) on behalf of children and youth throughout the United States and other countries.
November 15, 2016
New Republic | The Plucky Millennials Racing to Save the World From Donald Trump
It is not a stretch to say that Donald Trump’s election could be the end of the world as we know it. Trump, who claims that global warning is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, has said he will withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement. He has vowed to block President Barack Obama’s emission-cutting Clean Power Plan, and has suggested that he will tap coal-sponsored climate contrarian Myron Ebell to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency.
But, like any good apocalyptic sci-fi film, there may be hope from an unlikely quarter.
Last year, 21 people between the ages of eight and 19 sued the federal government for violating their constitutional due process rights by increasing carbon emissions—even as government officials, going back 50 years, acknowledged the harm of global warming. Among other evidence, the plaintiffs cite a 1969 letter from then–White House adviser Patrick Moynihan to President Nixon’s counsel warning of “apocalyptic change” and the loss-by-sea of Miami and Washington, D.C. The plaintiffs demand that the federal government hatch and carry out a plan to slash carbon emissions—right now.
November 14, 2016
Slate | The Kids Suing the Government Over Climate Change Are Our Best Hope Now
Aiken’s ruling supported the idea that climate damages like this should be considered unconstitutional. In her decision, drawing on the recent Supreme Court decision of Obergefell v Hodges that guaranteed the right to same-sex marriage, Judge Aiken wrote:
I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society. Just as marriage is the foundation of the family, a stable climate system is quite literally the foundation of society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress. … To hold otherwise would be to say that the Constitution affords no protection against a government’s knowing decision to poison the air its citizens breathe or the water its citizens drink.
Citing the public trust doctrine, an ancient understanding of the responsibility of governments that dates back to Roman times, Aiken agreed with the plaintiffs that the aggregate actions and inactions of the government on climate change have “so profoundly damaged our home planet that they threaten plaintiffs’ fundamental constitutional rights to life and liberty.” Given what she called the government’s “deep resistance to change,” and calling her decision “groundbreaking,” Aiken wrote that “the seriousness of plaintiffs’ allegations underscores how vitally important it is for this court to apply those standards carefully and correctly.”
November 11, 2016
Pacific Standard | Can a Surprise Lawsuit in Oregon Save American Climate Policy?
Some of the most striking lines from Aiken’s decision (you should really read the whole thing):
- “Federal courts too often have been cautious and overly deferential in the arena of environmental law, and the world has suffered for it.”
- “This lawsuit is not about proving that climate change is happening or that human activity is driving it. For the purposes of this motion, those facts are undisputed.”
- “Plaintiffs have alleged a causal relationship between their injuries and defendants’ conduct. At this stage, I am bound to accept those allegations as true.”
- “I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.”
- “The federal government, like the states, holds public assets — at a minimum, the territorial seas — in trust for the people.”
- “The Institutes of Justinian declared ‘the following things are by natural law common to all: the air, running water, the sea, and consequently the seashore.’ J. Inst. 2.1.1 (J.B. Moyle trans.). The doctrine made its way to the United States through the English common law.”
November 10, 2016
Bloomberg | After Obama, Trump May Face Children Suing Over Global Warming
Environmentalists said the ruling is especially poignant because Trump, a real estate developer and former reality television star, has called climate change a hoax.
“We have a president-elect who is an obvious climate denier and both political branches controlled by a party rampant with climate denialism," said Julia Olson, a plaintiffs attorney in the case. “It makes the job of the court that much more important in our constitutional democracy."
“If the government continues to delay urgent annual emissions reductions, my generation’s well-being will be inexcusably put at risk," the lead plaintiff, Kelsey Juliana, 20, said in the complaint.
November 10, 2016
Victory for America's Youth - Constitutional Climate Lawsuit against U.S to Proceed
Federal Judge Ann Aiken rejects U.S. government and fossil fuel industries motions to dismiss
Eugene, OR – Today, the federal court in Eugene, Oregon decided in favor of 21 youth plaintiffs in their “groundbreaking” constitutional climate lawsuit against President Obama, numerous federal agencies, and the fossil fuel industry. U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken completely rejected all arguments to dismiss raised by the federal government and fossil fuel industry, determining that the young plaintiffs’ constitutional and public trust claims could proceed. Now, the 21 plaintiffs, who range in age from 9-20, are preparing for trial in what is believed to be a turning point in United States constitutional history.
November 4, 2016
Teen Vogue | Climate Change Is the REAL American Horror Story Nobody's Talking About
October 18, 2016
Think Progress | Norwegians take their government to court over Arctic drilling
“Signing [the Paris climate agreement] while throwing open the door to Arctic oil drilling is a dangerous act of hypocrisy,” Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace Norway, said in an emailed statement. “By allowing oil companies to drill in the Arctic, Norway risks undermining global efforts to address climate change. When the government fails to redress this we have to do what we can to stop it.”
October 18, 2016
Youth file lawsuit against Norwegian government over Arctic oil
October 7, 2016
Vice | Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is named 'The Planet's Plaintiff'
September 28, 2016
Maine Youth File Climate Rulemaking Petition
September 16, 2016
Inslee Administration Finalizes Feckless Clean Air Rule
This action defies two court orders issued by King County Superior Court Judge Hollis R. Hill, which recognized that Ecology has a mandatory duty to "preserve, protect and enhance the air quality for the current and future generations" and to protect the fundamental, constitutional rights of Washingtonians to a healthful and pleasant atmosphere.
"Ecology’s new rule fails us children in every possible way," said Gabe Mandell, a youth petitioner in the case. "It ignores the judge’s ruling that we have the right to a healthful and pleasant atmosphere. Talking about the dire consequences of climate change, yet planning to let big polluters off the hook shows real disrespect for my generation and generations to come."
September 13, 2016
Ahead of Today's Hearing, Youth Show Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Nation
September 12, 2016
CNN | Meet the mom litigating the 'biggest case on the planet'
I'm not a parent, but all of us know children who we care about deeply. What makes Olson's argument so powerful is that it's tapping into what Wood, the law professor, calls a "primal urge" to protect young people. Imagine seeing a child floating down a river and struggling to swim, Wood told me. You only have a certain amount of time to act before the child is gone.
Do you dive in now or do you wait? At what point do you try to throw the kid a rope? I hope the answer is now. We too rarely treat climate change with the same urgency she does. It's too easy to pretend this is a distant disaster, one we won't experience. We're writing off future generations. People "have a hard time staying present in the trauma of it," she told me. "You can't work through trauma unless you're willing to stay in it -- and feel it."
Near the end of my interview with Olson, she outlined for me (and an independent documentary film crew) her fears about the world in which her children could grow up. "They are going to live in a very different world than I did, and I hope we can stop as much of the devastating changes as possible, but they're going to need tools of how to live in community and depend on people ... and find ways to deal with the catastrophes that will come ..."
September 7, 2016
Amidst Mounting Climate Chaos, One Court Presides Over Fate of Nation and Its Youth
Twenty-one youth plaintiffs, and Dr. James Hansen, filed a lawsuit in 2015 against the United States, seeking to secure their constitutional and public trust rights to a stable climate. Three trade associations, representing the fossil fuel industry intervened to protect their interests. Both the government and the trade associations filed motions to dismiss to throw the youth’s case out of court. They lost.
“We must hold the world's governments accountable for the safety of current and future generations,” said Roger Cox, the Dutch lawyer who won a similar lawsuit against the Netherlands last year for not taking sufficient measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause dangerous climate change. “If U.S. courts uphold their federal government's duty to protect our atmosphere, that would bolster our own legal efforts in Europe and give hope across the world that the U.S. may finally walk the walk, and not just talk the talk.”
September 1, 2016
Washington Youths Unveil Proposed Climate Legislation to Protect Their Constitutional Rights
The plaintiffs brought their climate case against the Washington Department of Ecology for its persistent refusal to implement science-based carbon pollution limits. Ecology has now missed at least three deadlines to make a legislative recommendation to update the existing GHG emission limits, which Ecology has said “need to be more aggressive” and “adjusted to better reflect the current science.” The youths’ lawsuit is part of the global youth climate campaign led by Our Children’s Trust.
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
Diverse groups of Coloradans who have substantial and varied interests in protecting public resources from fracking and climate change came together to support the youth plaintiffs. The Catholic Climate Movement of Colorado, the Denver Catholic Network, and 350 Colorado are three of more than 30 groups supporting the youths’ case.
“We stand behind these young people fighting for a healthy future and a safe Colorado,” said Marie Venner of the Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) Colorado, and Global CCM (GCCM) Steering Committee. “Fracking is causing long-term damage that the public will have to pay to repair, and it is usurping urgent necessary investments in free, clean, and long-term energy from the sun and wind. Catholics and many other Christians, ethical people of all faiths or no faith at all, want to respect life and preserve what is life-giving. We need to take responsibility for how carbon-intensive our local energy is and take action so life, jobs, and a supportive environment remain in Colorado. Pope Francis urges us (in paragraph 165 of Laudato Si’) to transition off fossil fuels without delay. Thank God for our young people and Our Children’s Trust working on behalf of the common good and care of our common home.”
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.