The Trump administration this week filed a motion to overturn a ruling by a federal judge back in November that cleared the lawsuit for trial — and filed a separate motion to delay trial preparation until that appeal is considered.
The lawsuit — the first of its kind — argues the federal government has violated the constitutional right of the 21 plaintiffs to a healthy climate system.
Environmental groups say the case — if it’s successful — could force even a reluctant government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and take other measures to counter warming.
“It would be huge,” said Pat Gallagher, legal director at the Sierra Club, who is not involved in the case. “It would upend climate litigation, climate law, as we know it.”
The landmark lawsuit was originally filed during the Obama administration. The 21 plaintiffs, now between the ages of 9 and 20, claim the federal government has consistently engaged in activity that promotes fossil fuel production and greenhouse gas emissions, thereby worsening climate change. They argue this violates their constitutional right to life, liberty and property, as well the public trust doctrine, while holds that the government is responsible for the preservation of certain vital resources — in this case, a healthy climate system — for public use.
While legal experts are uncertain as to the lawsuit’s likelihood of success, few have disputed its pioneering nature. Similar cases have been brought on the state level, but this is the first against the federal government in the United States. And in November, the case cleared a major early hurdle when U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken denied motions filed by the Obama administration, as well as the fossil fuel industry, to have the lawsuit dismissed, ordering that it should proceed to trial.
The move allowed the case to join the ranks of climate lawsuits filed in other nations, which could upend the way environmental advocacy is conducted around the world. Just last year, a court in the Netherlands ordered the Dutch government to cut carbon emissions by a quarter within five years. Similar climate-related suits have been brought and won in Austria, Pakistan and South Africa.
Shortly after President Trump’s inauguration, the plaintiffs submitted a request that the Department of Justice preserve all documents that could be relevant to the lawsuit, including information on climate change, energy and emissions, and cease any destruction of such documents that may otherwise occur during the presidential transition. The request came just days after reports began to surface of climate information disappearing from White House and certain federal agency websites.
“We are concerned with the new administration’s immediate maneuver to remove important climate change information from the public domain and, based on recent media reports, we are concerned about how deep the scrubbing effort will go,”Julia Olson, chief legal counsel for the plaintiffs and executive director of the advocacy group Our Children’s Trust, said in a statement at the time. “Destroying evidence is illegal and we just put these new U.S. Defendants and the Industry Defendants on notice that they are barred from doing so.”…….https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/03/09/this-climate-lawsuit-could-change-everything-no-wonder-the-trump-administration-doesnt-want-it-going-to-trial/?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.14eb9ea766c0