A Federal Judge in Eugene, Oregon has confirmed the right of a group of plaintiffs representing young people to sue the Federal Government over its climate change policy.
As noted in a press release from Our Children’s Trust entitled “Federal Court Affirms Constitutional Rights of Kids in Landmark Climate Case” that was posted on the website Common Dreams:
“On April 8, 2016, 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.”
The case is significant in that the judge ruled that the young plaintiffs had standing to sue and that the outcome of the case would involve climate science. The central question will be a presentation of climate changes impacts on the future of the young people and the responsibility of the Federal Government to act on behalf the public trust doctrine.
As Our Children’s Future noted:
“In denying the motions of the federal government and the fossil fuel industry, the Court’s decision framed the issue as follows: “Plaintiffs are suing the United States … because the government has known for decades that carbon dioxide (C02) pollution has been causing catastrophic climate change and has failed to take necessary action to curtail fossil fuel emissions. Moreover, plaintiffs allege that the government and its agencies have taken action or failed to take action that has resulted in increased carbon pollution through fossil fuel extraction, production, consumption, transportation, and exportation. Plaintiffs allege the current actions and omissions of defendants make it extremely difficult for plaintiffs to protect their vital natural systems and a livable world. Plaintiffs assert the actions and omissions of defendants that increased C02 emissions ‘shock the conscience,’ and are infringing the plaintiffs’ right to life and liberty in violation of their substantive due process rights.” The Court’s decision also upheld the youth Plaintiffs’ claims in the Fifth and Ninth Amendments “by denying them protections afforded to previous generations and by favoring short term economic interests of certain citizens.” Finally, Judge Coffin upheld Plaintiffs’ assertion of violations under the public trust doctrine, ruling that there is a federal public trust and plaintiffs’ claim can proceed.”
You can click on this link to read Judge Thomas Coffins’ “ORDER and FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATION “
“Sorry, Feds: Kids Can Sue Over Climate Negligence, Judge Says” Nation of Change