Chil­dren Sue Trump Gang For Mak­ing Cli­mate Change Worse

Trillions - - In This Issue -

On Novem­ber 6, two chil­dren in Penn­syl­va­nia, along with the Clean Air Coun­cil, sued Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Sec­re­tary of En­ergy Rick Perry, En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt, the U.S. Depart­ment of En­ergy and the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency.

The peo­ple and agen­cies named in the law­suit will be forced to meet their Con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tions to pro­tect the na­tion’s cit­i­zens, this time from the threat of cli­mate change.

In the law­suit, the com­plaint refers to “cur­rent acts to roll back reg­u­la­tions and prac­tices pre­vi­ously di­rected at min­i­miz­ing the United States’ con­tri­bu­tion to cli­mate change,” which, it says, “will in­crease … ex­treme weather events and dan­gers to the plain­tiffs’ liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment.” It goes on to say:

“Through these acts, the gov­ern­ment is re­ly­ing on junk sci­ence to wage a war on facts, data and re­li­able prin­ci­ples and meth­ods aris­ing out of sci­en­tific, tech­ni­cal and spe­cial­ized knowl­edge. In do­ing so, the de­fen­dants have acted with reck­less and de­lib­er­ate in­dif­fer­ence to the es­tab­lished clear and present dan­gers of cli­mate change, know­ingly in­creas­ing its re­sult­ing dam­ages, death and de­struc­tion.”

As repa­ra­tion, the law­suit de­mands that the courts is­sue “a dec­la­ra­tion that the cur­rent United States gov­ern­ment’s roll­back pro­gram af­fir­ma­tively in­creases the United States’ con­tri­bu­tion to cli­mate change and in­ten­si­fies its ef­fects, thereby en­dan­ger­ing the lives and wel­fare of United States cit­i­zens in vi­o­la­tion of the Due Process Clause of the Con­sti­tu­tion.”

As for who is be­hind the suit, the first plain­tiff is a child iden­ti­fied as “S.B., through his guardian Dane­cia Ber­rian.” He is seven years old, is a cit­i­zen of the United States and lives in Philadel­phia. Ac­cord­ing to the suit,

“He suf­fers from se­vere sea­sonal al­ler­gies, which cause re­cur­rent nose­bleeds and vom­it­ing. S.B.’S med­i­cal is­sues are di­rectly im­pacted by the cli­mate. He loves to play sports, and in­creas­ing tem­per­a­tures and ex­treme weather events caused by the de­fen­dants’ ac­tions af­fect his ath­letic per­for­mance and abil­ity to en­joy out­door ac­tiv­i­ties safely. As a re­sult of the United States gov­ern­ment’s ac­tions, S.B.’S allergy symp­toms have been ex­ac­er­bated and will con­tinue to worsen as cli­mate change be­comes more se­vere. For ex­am­ple, S.B. needed to be hos­pi­tal­ized dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Irene in 2011, and his mother ex­pe­ri­ences anx­i­ety dur­ing ex­treme weather events, fear­ing that he may need to be hos­pi­tal­ized again in the fu­ture.”

The sec­ond plain­tiff is “B.B., through his guardians Diane and Thomas Ber­man.” Also a seven-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen re­sid­ing in Philadel­phia, he has asthma, which the doc­u­ments cite is “ex­ac­er­bated by cli­mate change.” He di­rectly ex­pe­ri­enced the im­pacts of Su­per Storm Sandy and Hur­ri­cane Irene – the kind of storms whose grow­ing force over past years has been tied in part to the rapid pace of cli­mate change.

Both chil­dren are noted as “ex­pe­ri­enc­ing harm as a re­sult of the de­fen­dants’ af­fir­ma­tive acts in caus­ing in­creased cli­mate change.”the fi­nal plain­tiff is the Clean Air Coun­cil, a mem­ber-sup­ported en­vi­ron­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion head­quar­tered in Philadel­phia. Among other things, the court fil­ing states: “The Coun­cil is cur­rently fight­ing for strong reg­u­la­tions of car­bon diox­ide (CO2) and meth­ane at both the state and na­tional level. These pol­lu­tants make up over 90% of Amer­ica’s green­house gas emis­sions. Due to its emis­sions of CO2 and meth­ane, Penn­syl­va­nia alone is re­spon­si­ble for a full 1% of the world’s green­house gases.”

The law­suit goes af­ter the de­fen­dants on the grounds that they, through the en­vi­ron­men­tal roll­backs they have caused to hap­pen, have in­ter­fered “with a sta­ble cli­mate sys­tem.” They fur­ther say that the in­di­vid­u­als and agen­cies cited have vi­o­lated the pub­lic-trust doc­trine and in­fringed upon the plain­tiffs’ Fifth and Ninth Amend­ment rights.

As ex­am­ples of the wrong­ful acts car­ried out by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, the law­suit sug­gests the fol­low­ing:

• Re­mov­ing the United States from the Paris cli­mate ac­cord (The United States is now, in fact, the only for­mer pledge to the Paris Agree­ment who has pulled out.)

• Elim­i­nat­ing the re­quire­ment for meth­ane-emis­sions re­port­ing by oil and gas com­pa­nies

• Ap­prov­ing the Key­stone XL pipe­line

• Propos­ing cuts to fed­eral agen­cies deal­ing with cli­mate change (in­clud­ing both NASA in its mon­i­tor­ing and pre­dic­tive ca­pac­ity as well as the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency)

• Propos­ing the re­peal of the Clean Power Plan

• Purg­ing sci­en­tists from the En­vi­ron­men­tal Protec

tion Agency’s board of sci­en­tific coun­selors The law­suit ar­gues that prior to the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion, the United States rec­og­nized “the im­mi­nent dan­gers pre­sented by cli­mate change” and, as a re- sult, “the fed­eral gov­ern­ment un­der­took steps in the last decade to re­duce the threats and pro­tect U.S. cit­i­zens and the planet.”

As soon as the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion came into power, how­ever, “the United States gov­ern­ment em­barked on a pro­gram of rev­ers­ing, un­rav­el­ing, dis­man­tling and elim­i­nat­ing reg­u­la­tions, prac­tices and re­search pre­vi­ously com­mit­ted to ad­dress­ing, un­der­stand­ing and min­i­miz­ing the United States’ con­tri­bu­tion to cli­mate change (‘the fed­eral gov­ern­ment roll­backs’ or ‘the roll­backs’) and its life-en­dan­ger­ing ef­fects.” The suit al­leges that by us­ing “junk sci­ence” or “faulty sci­en­tific in­for­ma­tion or re­search, es­pe­cially when used to ad­vance spe­cial in­ter­ests, the gov­ern­ment has in ef­fect waged a war on facts, data and re­li­able prin­ci­ples and meth­ods aris­ing out of sci­en­tific, tech­ni­cal and spe­cial­ized knowl­edge.”

The suit goes on to say, “The roll­backs in­crease the United States’ con­tri­bu­tion to cli­mate change and in­ten­sify the fre­quency and sever­ity of its ef­fects, in­clud­ing, among oth­ers, death, short­en­ing of life ex­pectancy, prop­erty dam­age, degra­da­tion of food sources and al­ter­ation of ecosys­tems.” It goes on to claim that “through the roll­backs, the gov­ern­ment is know­ingly and reck­lessly plac­ing the na­tion’s pop­u­la­tion in harm’s way” and that the de­fen­dants “have acted with reck­less and de­lib­er­ate in­dif­fer­ence to the es­tab­lished clear and present dan­gers of cli­mate change, thereby in­creas­ing its re­sult­ing dam­ages, death and de­struc­tion.”

This law­suit shares a num­ber of sim­i­lar­i­ties with another ma­jor suit filed by chil­dren against the U.S. gov­ern­ment on the is­sue of cli­mate change.

That suit, Ju­liana v. United States, filed in 2015 for the U.S. Dis­trict Court of Ore­gon, ex­poses the gov­ern­ment on even broader grounds than the cur­rent lit­i­ga­tion. It as­serted that be­cause of spe­cific af­fir­ma­tive ac­tions by the U.S. gov­ern­ment that af­fect cli­mate change, the chil­dren’s con­sti­tu­tional rights “to life, lib­erty and prop­erty” were vi­o­lated and – in a note sim­i­lar to part of the new law­suit – that the gov­ern­ment failed to pro­tect es­sen­tial pub­lic trust re­sources.

In that lit­i­ga­tion, the fos­sil-fuel in­dus­try was ini­tially not part of the suit but joined it later to at­tempt to get the case dis­missed but have so far failed. (See the June 2016 Tril­lions ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled Big Oil - Big Lies for more in­for­ma­tion about how the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try knew for 60 years that it would cause global warm­ing and cli­mate change and con­cealed its own stud­ies show­ing the out­come we are now ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.)

Since that case was filed, there have been sev­eral im­por­tant de­ci­sions in it that sug­gest this is go­ing to be a long-fought le­gal bat­tle. Those de­ci­sions in­clude the fol­low­ing:

• April 8, 2016: U.S. Mag­is­trate Judge Thomas Cof­fin rec­om­mended a de­nial of the de­fen­dants’ mo­tions to dis­miss.

• Novem­ber 10, 2016: U.S. Dis­trict Judge Ann Aiken up­held Judge Cof­fin’s rec­om­men­da­tions, with a ma­jor opin­ion and or­der along those lines.

• June 8, 2017: Judge Aiken ruled against an in­ter­locu­tory ap­peal of the pre­vi­ous or­der, this time one that had been filed by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

• June 28, 2017: Now that the fos­sil-fuel in­dus­try de­fen­dants’ at­tempts to get the case dis­missed were fail­ing, Judge Cof­fin or­dered that those spe­cific de­fen­dants be re­leased from the case. In the same or­der, he also set a trial date for Fe­bru­ary 5, 2018, be­fore Judge Aiken at the U.S. Dis­trict Court of Ore­gon in Eu­gene.

• July 28, 2017: The Ninth Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals re­quested at­tor­neys for the youth plain­tiffs, as well as the Dis­trict Court, to re­spond to the U.S. gov­ern­ment’s pe­ti­tion for a writ of man­damus in the case. That ba­si­cally was a call by the U.S. gov­ern­ment for a higher author­ity (in this case, the Ninth Cir­cuit Court) to or­der the lower court to “do its job” as man­dated. Put another way, it was yet another at­tempt to have the de­ci­sion to al­low the case to go for­ward to be re­versed. The Dis­trict Court re­sponded on Au­gust 25, the youth plain­tiffs filed their an­swer on Au­gust 28 and eight am­i­cus briefs were filed with the Ninth Cir­cuit Court in sup­port of the youth plain­tiffs.

All of the lit­i­gants are cur­rently await­ing the de­ci­sion of the three-judge Ninth Cir­cuit Court panel. In par­al­lel, the chil­dren and their lawyers are get­ting ready for the trial start­ing Fe­bru­ary 5.

Trav­el­ing Minds cov­ered some of the law­suit’s ac­tions in an ar­ti­cle pub­lished March 17, 2017, en­ti­tled “U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment Comes Out Swing­ing in Cli­mate Change Law­suit and More.” Be­sides this last case, there is a pat­tern of sorts be­ing fol­lowed here – us­ing chil­dren as the fo­cal point of such lit­i­ga­tions. One ex­am­ple is a law­suit filed ear­lier this year by nine-year-old Rid­hima Pandey of In­dia. In her at­tack on her gov­ern­ment, she said, “The gov­ern­ment of In­dia – a coun­try that is the third worst con­trib­u­tor of green­house gas emis­sions in the world – is guilty of just stand­ing by while com­pa­nies, in­di­vid­u­als and gov­ern­ment agen­cies con­tinue to dump toxic ma­te­ri­als into the earth, wa­ter and air.” Her suit de­mands im­me­di­ate ac­tion by that gov­ern­ment to do some­thing to start act­ing re­spon­si­bly, en­force the en­vi­ron­men­tal laws that are al­ready in place and find a way to make In­dia a health­ier place to live. As ev­i­dence for what is hap­pen­ing, Pandey and her lawyers cite spe­cific laws that were al­ready passed by the In­dian gov­ern­ment and that the gov­ern­ment is ig­nor­ing. Like her U.S. coun­ter­parts, Pandey also notes: “My gov­ern­ment has failed to take steps to reg­u­late and re­duce green­house gas emis­sions, which are caus­ing ex­treme cli­mate con­di­tions. This will im­pact me and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

Pandey’s story was cov­ered in Tril­lions in an ar­ti­cle pub­lished May 2, 2017, en­ti­tled, “In­dian Girl De­mands Jus­tice from Her Gov­ern­ment in En­vi­ron­men­tal Court.”

The new law­suit is, of course, just get­ting started, and many ar­gue that it may have even more pow­er­ful grounds than the Ore­gon case be­cause of the spe­cific ac­tions the cur­rent and pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions have taken on the sub­ject of cli­mate change.

As Car­roll Muf­fett, pres­i­dent of the Cen­ter for In­ter­na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal Law (CIEL), said about this case, “While the U.S. gov­ern­ment’s ac­tions on cli­mate change prior to this ad­min­is­tra­tion fall far short of what is needed, they pro­vide a base­line level of pro­tec­tion that can­not and must not be re­versed,” yet “the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues its cam­paign to evis­cer­ate vi­tal cli­mate pro­tec­tions and de­stroy the sci­en­tific tools needed to as­sess, re­duce and re­spond to cli­mate risks.” “From un­der­min­ing the Paris Agree­ment to dis­man­tling vi­tal cli­mate satel­lites to jet­ti­son­ing guid­ance on cli­mate and in­fra­struc­ture, the de­fen­dants have demon­strated a reck­less dis­re­gard for the lives, liveli­hoods and rights of U.S. res­i­dents and peo­ple around the world,” Muf­fett con­tin­ued. “In so do­ing, they have cre­ated a clear vi­o­la­tion of fun­da­men­tal rights that can and should be ur­gently ad­dressed by the courts.” Mo­tions by the de­fen­dants in this new lit­i­ga­tion to dis­miss the case are likely al­ready in process.

Tril­lions will be fol­low­ing these im­por­tant cases as they move for­ward.

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