Watch to find out what Washington kids think about the ‘Clean Air Rule’ Draft the WA State Department of Ecology has released, after a King County Superior Court Judge ordered them to do so by the end of 2016.
Let’s get this out so the Governor hears from as many people as possible this week. Everybody needs to flood Olympia with calls in support of a 4% (or more) path to climate stability, the only way to protect kids’ constitutional rights to Washington’s air and water in the future. Petitions, calls, congratulations, to the Governor for winning superpowers to accelerate the emissions reduction 3x faster than the proposed Clean Air Rule. He can do what no other governor in history could do, act urgently to limit pollution quickly enough to protect children’s rights (and he must set emissions targets higher if he plans to avoid violating those same rights).
Huffington Post: Washington State Kids Score Huge Legal Win In Climate Change Lawsuit
Think Progress: Judge Sides With Kids Suing The Government Over Climate Inaction: ‘These Kids Can’t Wait’
The Stranger: King County Judge Makes Historic Ruling Against Washington State in Climate Change Case
Forbes: Kids Win Again In Lawsuit Blaming Gov’t For Not Fighting Global Warming
Ecowatch: Massive Victory for 7 Kids in Climate Change Lawsuit in Washington State
We need this on the Today Show. If we teach people what this case means, (kids now have rights to nature, air and water, in a changing climate, state government has a constitutional obligation to preserve those resources on a path to climate stability) then it becomes a defining moment in the Governor’s term, and he will act to cut emissions quickly.
This victory recognizing kids’ climate rights and ordering the government to act faster is the happiest climate news you will get in 2016! Celebrate and share!
Let’s convince the Governor that this is his golden ticket into history. Send out to everyone and every network you know. The cement is still wet on the draft Clean Air Rule. But by next week, the Washington Department of Ecology may be committed to a rule that violates children’s rights. If we mobilize enough support quickly, we could celebrate the nation’s best draft climate rule at the end of this month. #ClimateRecovery #350orBust
The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade one never expects to sit. –Nelson Henderson
On Wed, May 4, 2016, Michael Foster wrote:
We won big. We ALL won! Celebrate for a moment.
Imagine if, as President Obama and the EPA prepared the Clean Power Plan, the courts intervened to direct EPA to act urgently to protect the human rights of youth to air, land and water in a changing climate.
That’s just what happened in Washington State on Friday when Seattle kids returned to court in an administrative case with Ecology and won it all. This year the court has granted them rights under the Washington constitution to the resources essential to life, our atmosphere, land and water.
Governor Inslee is the first and only Governor to ever receive the gift of a judicial mandate to lead on climate to protect childrens’ rights, because on Friday it happened unequivocally for the first time in US history. His golden ticket came in a dramatic ruling from the bench, as the judge reasoned, “…these kids can’t wait. Polar bears can’t wait. the people in Bangladesh can’t wait. While I do not have jurisdiction in those matters, I do have jurisdiction in this court and that is why I am taking this action today.”
It sounded just like a page from one of Inslee’s climate speeches! What a perfect gift for the man who worked so hard only to see his own carbon legislation held hostage in a fossil-fueled Senate. Now he holds the unique privilege of being the first governor directed by the judge to direct Ecology to re-write the Clean Air Rule as the strongest in the nation, to protect our children’s resources.
That’s poetic justice. Congratulations Governor!
Kids presented Ecology the best available science on emissions limits to protect their resources, (4% a year in Washington, 6% globally) coupled with carbon sequestration (roughly 1 billion trees in Washington, 1 trillion globally).
Ecology presented no science to support their current targets (about 1.5% annually only covering 60% emissions), which they themselves deem “inadequate”.
With this judicial milestone linking human rights and ecology, the Dept of Ecology will construct a game-changing climate recovery rule, a model for the USA and the world. The Rule can still be re-drafted this month with new targets before it is released to public hearings.
It’s the first, best moment for our governor to lead on his strength as a climate champion. IF he chooses to make a bold move in an election year, Governor Inslee can declare “we are mobilizing against pollution to protect children’s rights” with a judge’s order in his hand. “4% Now or Bust!”
His dream come true, fixing climate for Washington kids.
Should industries attempt to block the new Rule, constitutional human rights of children prevail. With such a clear proposed rule, we might see emissions change course before the next legislative session and Olympia put a price on carbon. This changes everything.
Celebrate the court granting the constitutional rights of our children to inhabit a livable climate.
Celebrate the court defining the obligation of governments to preserve our land water and air for people in the face of immediate, colossal disruption.
Ecology will use their new powers to complete a strong Rule which protects the plaintiffs’ rights to future resources as the judge ordered, or face legal action for wasting more precious time that these kids can’t lose.
As plaintiffs Aji & Adonis sing,
“Think about the future generations,
think about the lives they’ll live,
think about our children’s children’s children.
What to them do you give?”
Is Governor Inslee the leader to truly change history? We’re about to find out. We’re lucky to have an executive who understands climate science in the Governor’s mansion. One way or another, we stand to witness a pivotal moment of the 21st century in May.
The decision was the first of its kind. Earlier this year, Judge Hill found that the state had a constitutional responsibility to protect its citizens—including the children who filed the lawsuit—but that dictating an additional greenhouse gas rule-making process wouldn’t be necessary. After all, in July of last year Governor Jay Inslee had directed Ecology to come up with a rule to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
That changed when Ecology withdrew the draft rule in February of 2016 in order to take more time to confer with stakeholders. When that happened, the kids’ lawyer, Andrea Rodgers, asked the judge to change the earlier ruling in favor of the state based on two criteria: one, that the state had misrepresented the facts, and two, that extraordinary circumstances deemed it necessary.
Judge Hill didn’t think that Ecology committed fraud or misrepresentation by committing to a rulemaking process and then withdrawing a draft rule later. But she did agree with the kids’ lawyer that climate change constituted extraordinary circumstances.
“Ecology doesn’t dispute that current science establishes that rapidly increasing global warming causes an unprecedented risk to the earth, to the land, sea, and atmosphere, and all living plants and creatures,” Judge Hill said. Then the judge used Ecology’s own words to demonstrate the “extraordinary” circumstances, reading back a quote from 2014 warning of “serious economic and environmental disruptions.”
Judge Hill continued:
The reason I’m doing this is because this is an urgent situation. (…) These children can’t wait, the polar bears can’t wait, the people of Bangladesh can’t wait. I don’t have jurisdiction over their needs in this matter, but I do have jurisdiction in this court, and for that reason I’m taking this action.
Now the state must come up with a rule to cut greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2016. In addition, it must make recommendations to the legislature next year to update the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals based on the most current science.
In order to demonstrate how climate change posed an immediate threat to Washington citizens—and how the state had failed to protect them from it—lawyer Andrea Rodgers cited the Quinault Indian Nation’s plan to relocate its ancestral village of Taholah away from the coastline because of rising sea levels. “People think that this is something that’s going to happen down the road when our friends, and our family, and our people in Washington are literally being relocated,” Rodgers said.
As for the judge’s ruling on extraordinary circumstances, “It’s not climate change that’s the extraordinary circumstance, it’s that this agency hasn’t done what it’s legally obligated to do for almost 30 years,” Rodgers told me after the courtroom let out. “And [Judge Hill] recognized that a court has a responsibility to step in and protect the rights of young people that are being harmed by climate change. This is world-changing and it’s amazing.”
The kid plaintiffs and their friends inside the courtroom were similarly stoked.
“I mean, [Ecology] are our ‘elders,’ so to speak, and they’re supposed to guide us and help us, and it kind of feels like we’re guiding them to help us,” 14-year-old Gabe Mandel added. “So we’re totally thankful that amazing Judge Hollis Hill ruled in our favor.”
A spokesperson from the Department of Ecology stressed that the state was already taking climate change seriously. “We’re already working on an aggressive schedule trying to put this policy in place, and we’re going to stay on that schedule,” Ecology spokesperson Camille St. Onge said. “It’s our top priority as an agency. We understand how vital it is to protect our air, and our water, and our land for future generations.”
UPDATE: Governor Jay Inslee released a statement on Judge Hollis Hill’s ruling.
This case is a call to act on climate, and that call is one that has been a priority for me since taking office. Our state is helping lead the way on climate action in our country.
It appears the court is essentially reaffirming the need to do what we’ve already committed to doing, which is putting a policy in place by the end of the year that reduces carbon pollution in Washington state.
In a way it is gratifying that the court has also affirmed our authority to act, contrary to the assertion of those who continue to reject action on climate change and ocean acidification. Hundreds of people have participated in the creation of our state’s Clean Air Rule and the draft will be out in just a few weeks. People can also view the webinar held earlier this week in which over 500 people participated.
I’m fully committed to making sure we do our part to protect our air and water for our children in the years ahead.
Our Children’s Trust posted to its members this wonderful photo and quote:
Bernie’s smile says it all, and so do his comments just before greeting Sahara, Avery and Hazel:
“Climate change is real. And for the sake of our kids and our grandchildren, we are going to have to have the courage to take on the fossil fuel industry and tell them that their short term profits are not more important than the future of this planet.” – Bernie Sanders, April 28, 2016, Springfield, OR
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!
This time next week, Washington could become the first state in the union committed to walking the path back to 350 CO2 in our children’s lifetime. By Wednesday July 8th, the Department of Ecology must respond to the court in the historic victory, Zoe & Stella Foster v. Ecology.
Please contact Dept of Ecology and the Governor’s office today with congratulations and encouragement. This landmark ruling means Ecology under the Governor’s direction and judge’s order must exercise their sole authority to regulate and reduce carbon pollution “to protect our state’s resources and the children who depend on them.”
It’s a great day for Washington State once Ecology decides to do the right thing for our children. Call now and get your friends to call too!
Congratulations to everybody.
From Our Children’s Trust:
In a no-nonsense decision that calls out bureaucratic delay in the face of urgent and dire climate consequences, a judge in our Washington case just sided with the 8 youth petitioners, and ordered the state to reconsider its denial of the youth’s petition for emission reductions in accordance with current science. Please read the 4-page decision and press release.
Importantly, the judge ordered the state to consider the youth’s scientific evidence and to respond to the need to bring atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to below 350 ppm by 2100.
The State must notify the court in two short weeks whether it will amend or affirm it’s denial of the youth’s petition in face of the court’s and the youth’s scientific evidence.
Congratulations to our youth petitioners of Plant for the Planet Academy and our outstanding WELC attorney leading the Washington case, Andrea Rodgers.
Judge Orders Washington Environmental Agency to Consider Youth-Proposed Carbon Dioxide Reductions
Seattle, Washington – On Tuesday, King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill issued a landmark decision in Zoe & Stella Foster v. Washington Department of Ecology, the climate change case brought by eight young citizens of Washington State. In her decision, Judge Hill ordered the Washington Department of Ecology (“Ecology”) to reconsider the petition the eight youth filed with Ecology last year asking for carbon dioxide reductions, and to report back to the court by July 8, 2015, as to whether they will consider the undisputed current science necessary for climate recovery.
Last June, the young petitioners filed a petition for rulemaking to Ecology requesting that the agency promulgate a rule that would limit carbon dioxide emissions in Washington according to what scientists say is needed to protect our oceans and climate system. The youth also asked Ecology to inform the Legislature that existing statutory greenhouse gas reductions must be revised based on current climate science. On August 14, 2014, Ecology denied the petition without disputing the underlying scientific bases for petitioner’s plea. Arguing that they have a fundamental right to a healthy environment, and that they are faced with increasing harms posed by climate destabilization and ocean acidification, the young petitioners filed an appeal of the denial to vindicate this right on behalf of themselves and future generations.
“The effect of this decision is that for the first time in the United States, a court of law has ordered a state agency to consider the most current and best available climate science when deciding to regulate carbon dioxide emissions,” said Andrea Rodgers of the Western Environmental Law Center, attorney for the youth petitioners. “The court directed Ecology to apply the agency’s own findings that climate change presents an imminent threat to Washington and demands immediate action. The ball is now in Ecology’s court to do the right thing and protect our children and future generations.”
In a footnote to her order, Judge Hill explained her plain reasoning for rejecting Ecology’s plan to delay action, referencing a December 2014 report from Ecology: “Ecology suggests no change in greenhouse gas reduction standards until after an international climate conference scheduled in Paris in December 2015, thus delaying action for at least a year from the date of the report or one year and five months after the report’s original due date. Neither in its briefing nor in oral argument of this appeal did the Department seek to justify this suggested delay. The report itself states that after the Paris conference Washington would be better informed how the state’s limits should be adjusted.”
“Kids understand the threats climate change will have on our future,” said 13-year-old petitioner Zoe Foster. “I’m not going to sit by and watch my government do nothing. We don’t have time to waste. I’m pushing my government to take real action on climate, and I won’t stop until change is made.”
The court’s opinion acknowledges that climate change is currently happening and will have devastating impacts on the natural environment of Washington. Citing Ecology’s December report, the court wrote: “Washington State’s existing statutory limits should be adjusted to better reflect the current science. The limits need to be more aggressive in order for Washington to do its part to address climate risks.”
Ecology has recognized that “we are imposing risks on future generations (causing intergenerational inequities) and liability for the harm that will be caused by climate change that we are unable or unwilling to avoid.” Current climate science finds that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels must be reduced from the current global annual mean concentration of 401 parts per million, to 350 ppm by 2100 in order to achieve climate stabilization and protect our oceans from catastrophic acidification.
“This encouraging court decision reminds us that there is still good basis for optimism about legal strategies that aim to require governments to draft an action plan consistent with a more stringent mitigation target than the ones that are commonly discussed,” said the youth’s expert, NASA climate scientist Dr. Pushker Kharecha. “I hope the Department of Ecology realizes that such a plan would be more achievable than they think in this case, and that they will therefore choose to amend their decision accordingly.”
“This is a decision of immense national significance,” said Julia Olson, executive director of Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit spearheading similar cases around the country. “Judge Hill acknowledges the urgent and dire acceleration of global warming, refuses to accept any more bureaucratic delay, and mandates that the State consider and act in just two weeks time on the youth’s scientific evidence that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide must be reduced to 350 ppm. This judge understands the role of the judiciary to enforce citizen’s rights to fair evaluation of their grounded petitions and the critical urgency that government act substantively and without delay to protect the state’s resources and the children who depend on them.”
“The court’s decision brings a feeling of triumph,” said 14-year-old petitioner Aji Piper. “But I know there is still a lot of work to be done. We may have one a battle, but we’re still fighting a bigger war.”
The youth petitioners acted with the help of Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit orchestrating a global, game-changing, youth-driven legal campaign to establish the right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate. The legal effort advances the fundamental duty of government today: to address the climate crisis based on scientific baselines and benchmarks, and to do so within timeframes determined by scientific analysis. Our Children’s Trust is a nonprofit organization advocating for urgent emissions reductions on behalf of youth and future generations, who have the most to lose if emissions are not reduced. OCT is spearheading the international human rights and environmental TRUST Campaign to compel governments to safeguard the atmosphere as a “public trust” resource. We use law, film, and media to elevate their compelling voices. Our ultimate goal is for governments to adopt and implement enforceable science-based Climate Recovery Plans with annual emissions reductions to return to an atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration of 350 ppm. http://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/ The Western Environmental Law Center is a public interest nonprofit law firm. WELC combines legal skills with sound conservation biology and environmental science to address major environmental issues throughout the West. WELC does not charge clients and partners for services, but relies instead on charitable gifts from individuals, families, and foundations to accomplish its mission. http://www.westernlaw.org
Bill Moyers meets 18-yr-old Kelsey Juliana from Eugene, OR, a lead plaintiff in Atmospheric Trust Litigation at age 15. She walks the talk. If you ever doubt whether one person can make a difference, just watch this inspiring young woman get real.
Last week 8 Seattle students asked a judge to Review a Rulemaking Petition to Washington Dept of Ecology for carbon emissions targets to protect future generations. Working with the legal team that crafted the Atmospheric Trust Litigation against the federal government and all 50 states. To learn more visit OurChildrensTrust.org
While Kelsey is joining the People’s Climate March in NYC, you can find your local action here at Peoplesclimate.org
For University of Alaska Freshman Nelson Kanuk, climate change is not an abstract concept but something that directly affects his family, his home, his community, and his daily life. Raised in Kipnuk, Alaska, he learned at a young age that being a steward of the land is intrinsic to existence.
“Growing up both my parents and my grandparents stated how important it is to take care of the land,” Kanuk said. “Not only developing but hunting and gathering, but we can’t overdo that. We have to have a balance of sustainability.”
Many of the people gathered on Thursday, Oct. 3 at the Barrow High School Auditorium would likely agree with that statement. Barrow and Kipnuk, while hundreds of miles from each other, are both coastal communities who have a mostly Alaska Native population that depend on subsistence hunting and gathering. On Thursday afternoon the Alaska State Supreme Court convened in Barrow, Alaska to hear the case Nelson Kanuk, et. al., v. State of Alaska, Department of Natural Resources.
Mentioning several recent instances in which residents of Alaska have directly been affected by climate change, the attorney arguing for the appellants, Brad D. De Noble, spoke to the rapid changes that are apparent throughout the state. Bringing up thousands of walruses packed dangerously close together near Point Lay, residents of St. Lawrence Island unable to access food and Kanuk’s loss of his home to flooding just this spring, De Noble made it clear that certain resources are so essential and critical that they lay as public domain.
There to assist in the appellant’s case was Julia Olson, who works with Our Children’s Trust, a nonprofit organization that is working nationally to draw attention to the issue of climate change and is part of the larger global TRUST campaign, which turns to the justice system to seek exactly that.
justice for what many deem an unjust destruction of public land and natural resources that should be constitutionally protected under the Public Trust Doctrine.
The attorney arguing for the Appellee State of Alaska was Seth Beausang, who argued that this case cannot be decided by a single judge and group of plaintiffs. Beausang also brought up that this case is a political question argument and more of a global than state problem.
Drawing a large crowd of community members and high school students, the case presentation lasted less than an hour but afterward, the attorneys and appellants took questions from the audience.
Katherine Dolma, a 17-year-old high school senior from Homer, Alaska, is one of the appellants in the case. Dolma spoke to the view that climate change is a much bigger problem than the courts, and being involved in this case is one way to do something about a very pressing problem.
“This is a way to make a bigger impact and have the issue addressed at a larger level,” Dolma says.
Living in Homer, she has seen a visible receding of Six Glaciers in her lifetime.
When Kanuk and Katherine Dolma return to their respective communities, they will certainly engage their peers in dialogue about the case and the pressing severity of climate change. Although just one aspect of their busy lives, their tenacity is apparent in the eagerness and passion with which they discuss this case. Both teens also acknowledged that their involvement in this case was changing their lives in subtle yet significant ways.
About climate change, Dolma said, “A lot of people, they can see it, but they can’t accept that they can do something to help it. And I feel like that’s a really big step. First you have to see it and understand what it is and that it is happening but also that it’s not for someone else to deal with, it’s not for the state to deal with, it’s not for the government to deal with, it’s not for other countries to deal with it, we each have to do something about it if it’s going to change.”