Fossil Fuel Associations and Faith Leaders Join Youths’ Landmark Federal Climate Lawsuit

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21 young Plaintiffs assert the U.S. government violated their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property by allowing and facilitating the exploitation of fossil fuels. The youth asked the court to order the federal government to give them a science-based national climate recovery plan. They sued 9 agencies including the Obama Administration. Turns out the federal government has some powerful friends.

On January 13, 2016, Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin of the federal District Court in Oregon granted defendant status to three trade associations, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (“AFPM” representing Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell, Koch Industries, and virtually all other U.S. refiners and petrochemical manufacturers), American Petroleum Institute (“API”representing 625 oil and natural gas companies), and National Association of Manufacturers (“NAM” representing 14000 corporations).

Philip Gregory, attorney for the young Plaintiffs, “The fossil fuel industry would not want to be in court unless it understood the significance of our case… as a momentous threat to fossil fuel companies. The fuel industry and the federal government lining up against 21 young citizens. That shows you what is at stake here.”

The fossil fuel powerhouses call the youth’s case “extraordinary” and “a direct, substantial threat to [their] businesses.” During Wednesday’s hearing, the industry argued that a victory for youth plaintiffs will require a significant restructuring of the fossil fuel business model, such as potentially invalidating thousands of leases for fossil fuel extraction.

Judge Coffin agreed that a decision in plaintiffs’ favor would impact the fossil fuel industry and wants all the key parties in the courtroom. Counsel for the trade associations confirmed they represent nearly every fossil fuel related company in America. In response to the Court’s questioning, the three trade associations stated they would all speak with “one unified voice”.

“We are prepared to take on the world’s largest fossil fuel polluters, including Exxon and Koch Industries,” said Julia Olson, counsel for the youth and Executive Director of Our Children’s Trust. “This case asks the court to order what the industry fears most: a national plan using the best science to leave a nation of clean air and a healthy climate to our kids. These trade groups will now face the science-based evidence in a courtroom, not in the halls of Congress where their lobbying dollars hold the most clout.”

Two days later on January 15th, the Center for Earth Jurisprudence, the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) and the Leadership Council of Women Religious (LCWR) promptly filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the youth plaintiffs in the climate change lawsuit.

LCWR represents leaders of more than 40,000. GCCM is an international network of more than 250 Catholic organizations and individuals, including Pope Francis and Catholic bishops. The Catholic group is relying on the Pope’s recent encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.

“Laudato Si’ reminds us that ‘Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us,’” said Tomas Insua, Global Coordinator with GCCM. “We join our voices with the young plaintiffs who are calling for climate justice and the protection of the atmosphere for generations to come.”

The judge has set oral argument on all Motions to Dismiss for March 9 at 10 a.m. in Eugene, Oregon.

Our Children’s Trust is a nonprofit organization, elevating the voice of youth, those with most to lose, to secure the legal right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate on behalf of present and future generations. We lead a global human rights and environmental justice campaign to implement enforceable science-based Climate Recovery Plans that will return atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration to levels below 350 ppm. www.ourchildrenstrust.org
Earth Guardians is a Colorado-based nonprofit organization with youth chapters on five continents, and multiple groups in the United States with thousands of members working together to protect the Earth, the water, the air, and the atmosphere, creating healthy sustainable communities globally. We inspire and empower young leaders, families, schools, organizations, cities, and government officials to make positive change locally, nationally, and globally to address the critical state of the Earth. www.earthguardians.org

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