The landmark lawsuit by a group of children against the Trump administration over climate change is headed to trial.
Thomas Coffin, a federal judge in Oregon, set a trial date of Feb. 5, 2018. It will take place in Eugene, Ore., before U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken.
In a court order yesterday, Coffin also released three fossil fuel trade groups from the case. They opposed the plaintiff's claims before exiting the case.
The ruling to proceed with a trial is a blow to the Department of Justice, whose lawyers tried to get the case thrown out. DOJ unsuccessfully petitioned the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to intervene.
The plaintiffs include 21 children and young adults who sued the Obama administration in 2015, arguing that the federal government has encouraged the burning of fossil fuels despite knowing about the dangers of climate change.
The suit claims that the government violated the plaintiffs' constitutional protections to live in a safe ecosystem. They also want the United States to phase out fossil fuels (Climatewire, April 28).
“Given our excellent panel of experts, and the ongoing problems created by the Trump administration, we believe the court will use the constitution and the public trust doctrine to protect our climate from further serious damage,” Philip Gregory, one of the attorneys in the lawsuit, said in a statement.
The American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Manufacturers, and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers joined the suit two years ago and sided with the government. They said the kids' demands threatened their financial interests.
“Over 18 months ago, these fossil fuel associations went to incredible lengths to become defendants so that they could shut down this case,” Julia Olson, another attorney representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement.
The industry groups' intervention could have exposed them to questions under oath and requests to turn over documents. In May, they said they wanted to get out of the case (Climatewire, May 25).
“Although the adage 'look before leaping' comes to mind, I find nothing sanctionable in any of their conduct,” said Coffin.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at www.eenews.net.