Credit: Flickr Juriy Ruse
A federal magistrate judge in Eugene said Friday that a potential landmark lawsuit filed against the U.S. government by a group of environmentally minded youth plaintiffs and a leading climate scientist should be allowed to proceed in court...
U.S. Magistrate Judge Tom Coffin wrote in a 24-page decision that motions to dismiss the suit — which were filed by the government and trade groups representing many of the world’s largest energy companies — should be denied.
Coffin wrote that it would be premature to throw out the case, which seeks to require federal officials to drastically reduce emissions that many scientists say contribute to climate change.
“The nascent nature of these proceedings dictate further development of the record before the court can adjudicate whether any claims or parties should not survive for trial,” Coffin wrote.
Hundreds of the plaintiffs’ supporters attended a March 9 hearing in U.S. District Court in Eugene in which Coffin heard arguments for and against the case’s dismissal. Because of the crowd’s size, the hearing was streamed live into three additional federal courtrooms in Eugene and one in Portland.
Coffin’s recommendation now will be reviewed by District Judge Ann Aiken, who will consider any objections before deciding whether it should stand or be changed.
U.S. Department of Justice attorney Sean Duffy did not immediately return an emailed request for comment on Friday afternoon. Duffy represented the government and argued in favor of the suit’s dismissal at the March 9 hearing.
The lawsuit alleges the government has known for more than 50 years that carbon dioxide pollution causes climate change, but has failed to implement plans to phase out greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, government officials have promoted the development and use of fossil fuels, the plaintiffs allege.
Twenty one youths between the ages of 8 and 19, several of whom live in Oregon, are named as plaintiffs. Joining them is climate scientist James Hansen, who is listed in the lawsuit as being the “guardian” for “future generations.”
Hansen and the youth plaintiffs want the court to rule that the government is violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by causing dangerous carbon dioxide emissions to be released into the atmosphere.
They’re also seeking a court order that requires the government to create a plan that works to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions released by the burning of fossil fuels. They say big changes are needed to protect the environment for today’s youth and future generations.
Julia Olson, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said Friday in a statement that “the science is clear that if we do not obtain the relief we seek in this case, our climate system will be irreversibly and catastrophically damaged.”
Lawyers for the defendants, meanwhile, argue that the suit should be dismissed because it fails to state valid legal claims and centers on issues that should be decided by government agencies and lawmakers. They also contend the plaintiffs lack standing to bring the litigation because they haven’t shown any actual or imminent injury, and instead allege only general harms.
The energy companies argue in court filings that a ruling in the plaintiffs’ favor would cause them considerable harm. They also assert that they already are subject to many environmental regulations under the federal Clean Air Act and other laws.
By Jack Moran The Register-Guard April 9, 2016
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original story HERE.
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