Government files more motions against kids’ climate case

Source: Benjamin Hulac, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Trump administration is trying to freeze a federal climate lawsuit, arguing the plaintiffs in the case are seeking a right that does not exist.

In court papers yesterday, the government urged a district court in Oregon, where the case was filed, and an appellate court to step in.

One of the government’s motions — a “writ of mandamus” — went to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That motion, if the court granted it, could order the lower court to dismiss the case.

Another motion, filed with the district court, pressed the judge there to reconsider her stance that trial should begin.

The efforts are the latest in a back-and-forth legal fight between the plaintiffs, a group of 21 children and young adults, and the federal government, which they sued three years ago.

They sued the Obama administration in 2015, accusing it of violating their constitutional rights to exist in a safe and stable climate, despite decades’ worth of government research showing the dangers and science underpinning climate change.

Department of Justice attorneys have repeatedly sought to persuade the courts to toss the case, which was set to begin trial in October. The plaintiffs have pressed back, working to quickly begin the proceedings.

The government has twice urged the Supreme Court to intervene but was turned back. On Friday, the court lifted a hold on the discovery and trial elements of the case (Climatewire, Nov. 5).

“The laws that we really turn to in this effort are foundational laws,” Julia Olson, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, said in February 2017 at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco. “They’re laws that explain why we have government in the first place and what our basic human rights are.”

The government has disputed that argument from the start and yesterday said the case was a set of “deeply flawed proceedings.”

In part, DOJ argues, whatever harm the plaintiffs may have felt due to climate change, they can’t pin that on the federal government.

“As the Supreme Court has explained, ’emissions in New Jersey may contribute no more to flooding in New York than emissions in China,'” the DOJ wrote, citing the Supreme Court case American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut.

Known colloquially as the “kids’ climate case,” it is formally Juliana v. United States.