Our Children’s Trust, Press Release, 9 April 2016, Judge Denies Motions by Fossil Fuel Industry and Federal Government in 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.
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.” 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.
Code of Justinian, 530 AD:
“By the law of nature these things are common to mankind — the air, running water, the sea….”
All these things are already damaged and under further and increasing threat from climate change caused by burning fossil fuels.
We didn’t tax PCBs or DDT: we banned them. We need to do the same with fossil fuels.
Who will do that?
“When those in power stand alongside the very industries that threaten the future of my generation instead of standing with the people, it is a reminder that they are not our leaders,” Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh Martinez, one of the youth plaintiffs and youth director of Earth Guardians, said.
“The real leaders are the twenty youth standing with me in court to demand justice for my generation and justice for all youth. We will not be silent, we will not go unnoticed, and we are ready to stand to protect everything our “leaders” have failed to fight for. They are afraid of the power we have to create change. And this change we are creating, will go down in history.”
We the people.