Climate Change Litigation Update: 'Children's Crusade' Case Against the United States Goes Forward [January 17, 2017] [open pdf - 150KB]
"Recently, an Oregon federal district court judge denied the U.S. government's motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a group of 21 individuals, all age 20 or younger, and other plaintiffs seeking to compel the federal government to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The case, 'Juliana v. United States', is part of the so-called 'children's crusade' --a campaign of state and federal lawsuits and rulemaking petitions related to climate change coordinated by an Oregon nonprofit, Our Children's Trust, on behalf of American youth. While only a preliminary ruling, the 54-page opinion has prompted some media outlets to speculate whether the 'kids'' lawsuit may potentially force a change in the United States' policy toward climate change through litigation. Lawsuits implicating issues related to climate change are not a new phenomenon in the United States or internationally. Litigation in the United States (discussed in this report) has largely focused on addressing climate-related issues through existing federal environmental statutes, like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Clean Air Act. But efforts to address climate issues through common law (as opposed to statutory) claims have been largely unsuccessful. Mostly notably, in 'American Electric Power Co., Inc. v. Connecticut', the Supreme Court held that a group of plaintiffs could not rely on the federal common law of public nuisance to seek a decree setting greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards on the operators of fossil fuel-fired power plants because the Clean Air Act 'displaced' those claims. The 'Juliana' case, which focuses on duties that allegedly arise under the Constitution and the common law, may potentially indicate that at least some courts may be willing to consider climate-related claims outside the context of existing environmental statutes."
CRS Legal Sidebar, January 17, 2017
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html