Washington Court Recognizes Constitutional and Public Trust Duty to Protect the Atmosphere for Present and Future Generations

Washington petitioners with their attorney Andrea Rodgers before their meeting with Governor Inslee.

Attorney Andrea Rodgers, right, with some of the plaintiffs in a climate lawsuit before a meeting earlier this year with Gov. Jay Inslee. Photo Credit: Our Children’s Trust

From Our Children’s Trust on 11/20/2015:

Late last night, eight Washington youth received a groundbreaking ruling from Judge Hollis Hill in their climate change lawsuit. In this landmark decision, Judge Hill declared “[the youths’] survival depends upon the will of their elders to act now, decisively and unequivocally, to stem the tide of global warming…before doing so becomes first too costly and then too late.

The court confirmed what the Washington petitioners and other young people we work with across the nation have been arguing in the courts, that “[t]he state has a constitutional obligation to protect the public’s interest in natural resources held in trust for the common benefit of the people.”

Gabriel Mandell, a 13-year-old Washington petitioner reacts to Judge Hills decision:

“It’s incredible to have the court finally say that we do have a right to healthy atmosphere and that our government can’t allow it to be harmed. This ruling means that what the Department of Ecology does going forward in its rulemaking has to protect us, the kids of Washington, and not just us, but future generations too, like my children and those to come. Now they can’t decide to protect short-term economic fears and ignore us because we have constitutional and public trust rights to a stable climate!”

The court also validated the youths’ claims that the “scientific evidence is clear that the current rates of reduction mandated by Washington law. . . cannot ensure the survival of an environment in which [youth] can grow to adulthood safely.” The judge determined that the State has a “mandatory duty” to “preserve, protect, and enhance the air quality for the current and future generations,” and found the state’s current standards to fail that standard dramatically for several reasons.

This Washington decision establishing constitutional public trust protections for the atmosphere, together with the decision earlier this year doing the same in New Mexico, evidences a wake-up by the judiciary that our collective right to a habitable future is at stake and must be protected by the courts before it is too late.

Read our full press release.
Thank you for your continued support and for enabling us to secure this important decision and more to come!

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