Judge Allows Youths’ Climate Case to Proceed to Trial

On October 15, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken ruled in Eugene OR that the plaintiffs in Juliana vs. The United States can credibly claim that their due process rights have been violated by the government and fossil fuel companies, and that their suit may go to trial as scheduled on October 29, 2018. The suit was first filed in 2015, with the 21 plaintiffs, then ranging in age from eight to 19, arguing that government actions worsening carbon emissions “violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.”

Aiken said in her ruling that the young plaintiffs “proffered uncontradicted evidence showing that the government has historically known about the dangers of greenhouse gases but has continued to take steps promoting a fossil fuel based energy system, thus increasing greenhouse gas emissions.”

The federal government has tried for the three years since it was filed to have the suit dismissed, arguing that pollution and extreme weather are world-wide, and, as one Justice Department lawyer said in 2016, “There simply is no constitutional right to a pollution-free environment.”

Judge Aitken rejected the government’s argument, saying, “Where a complaint alleges knowing governmental action is affirmatively and substantially damaging the climate system in a way that will cause human deaths, shorten human lifespans, result in widespread damage to property, threaten human food sources, and dramatically alter the planet’s ecosystem, it states a claim for a due process violation. 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.”

Read the full Common Dreams article here.

Our Children’s Trust, which helped the young plaintiffs with their suit, has a press release on the ruling here.