A judge in Oregon refuses to dismiss a 2015 climate lawsuit filed by youth

Jan 4, 2024, 1:03 PM

Christine Buhl, a forest health specialist for the Oregon Department of Forestry, uses an increment...

Christine Buhl, a forest health specialist for the Oregon Department of Forestry, uses an increment borer to core a dead western red cedar at Magness Memorial Tree Farm in Sherwood, Ore., Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. Iconic red cedars — known as the "Tree of Life' — and other tree species in the Pacific Northwest have been dying because of climate-induced drought, researchers say. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

(AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

A judge in Oregon has rejected a U.S. Department of Justice request to dismiss a 2015 lawsuit brought by young people that alleges the federal government knew the dangers posed by carbon pollution but that it has continued through policies and subsidies to support the fossil fuel industry.

U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken said the parties “do not disagree that the climate crisis threatens our ability to survive on planet Earth. This catastrophe is the great emergency of our time and compels urgent action.”

“While facts remain to be proved, lawsuits like this highlight young people’s despair with the drawn-out pace of the unhurried, inchmeal, bureaucratic response to our most dire emergency,” she wrote in her decision late last week.

In a statement, Julia Olson, an attorney with the group Our Children’s Trust representing the plaintiffs, said she expects a trial in the case later this year.

In a similar lawsuit in Montana, a judge last year ruled the Montana Environmental Policy Act violates the plaintiffs’ state constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment. The 1971 law requires state agencies to consider the potential environmental impacts of proposed projects and take public input before issuing permits. The state’s attorney general has appealed that decision.

The plaintiffs in the Oregon case argued the government has violated young people’s constitutional rights to life, liberty and property.


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A judge in Oregon refuses to dismiss a 2015 climate lawsuit filed by youth