A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday in favor of 21 children and young adults suing the U.S. government for not doing enough to protect their constitutional right to a stable climate.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judges refused to grant mandamus relief and block the U.S. District Court in Oregon from hearing the suit, which was originally filed by the environmental group Our Children’s Trust in 2015.
A federal judge in Oregon ruled in 2016 the 21 youngsters had standing to sue. President Donald Trump’s administration and oil and gas groups appealed the decision in June 2017. They asked judges to “end this clearly improper attempt to have the judiciary decide important questions of energy and environmental policy” and upset the balance of powers. The Ninth Circuit disagreed.
“There is enduring value in the orderly administration of litigation by the trial courts, free of needless appellate interference,” Judge Sidney Thomas wrote on behalf of the court.
“If appellate review could be invoked whenever a district court denied a motion to dismiss, we would be quickly overwhelmed with such requests, and the resolution of cases would be unnecessarily delayed,” Thomas wrote.
The ruling is a victory for environmental activists seeking to use the courts to force the Trump administration to issue regulations to phase out fossil fuels. Julia Olson, Our Children’s Trust chief counsel, said the ruling gives a “green light for trial.”
Olson’s case on behalf of youngsters argues constitutional rights to life, liberty and property are being violated by the federal government’s failure to enact policies to stop catastrophic global warming.
Plaintiffs say the right to a stable climate comes from the public trust doctrine — the idea certain natural resources should be protected for enjoyment of future generations. Policies to encourage coal, oil and natural gas use violate this principle, plaintiffs argue.
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