Teenagers Win Again! Climate Lawsuits in Washington, Massachusetts

When we last reported on the teenagers that are taking every state and the federal government to court over inaction on climate change, they had victory in Washington State.

The court agreed with the 8 plaintiffs that state’s climate goals fail to “preserve, protect, and enhance the air quality for the current and future generations.” The Department of Ecology refused to set science-based emissions targets, claiming they aren’t allowed to regulate greenhouse gases.

Now, the judge has directed the Department to announce goals by the end of 2016 and submit recommendations to the legislature in 2017 on how they can be reached. Incredibly, Judge Hollis Hill is requiring the Department to consult with the teenagers as part of crafting the recommendations.

The plaintiffs!


This is “the first time a U.S. court not only recognized the extraordinary harms young people are facing due to climate change, but ordered an agency to do something about it,” says Andrea Rodgers, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center which represents the teenagers.

Massachusetts Follows

In another case, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in favor of four youth plaintiffs, the Conservation Law Foundation and Mass Energy Consumers Alliance.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection isn’t complying with its legal obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the court says, directing it to develop regulations that address “multiple sources or categories of sources of greenhouse gas emissions, impose a limit on emissions that may be released … and set limits that decline on an annual basis.”

The state has a goal of cutting emissions 25% by 2020 from 1990 levels, but is not on track to meet, largely because of the lack of regulations from Department of Environmental Protection.

Federal Case

Last month, the teenagers’ case against the federal government also got a lift, when an Oregon judge ruled their lawsuit can move forward.  Climate scientist James Hansen and the Global Catholic Climate Movement, which includes Pope Francis, are also parties to the lawsuit.

Other cases that are pending are in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Oregon, but lawsuits have been filed in all 50 states, including Alaska.

Last year, a Texas judge ruled the state IS responsible for the atmosphere.

Read our article, Momentum Builds for Court Action on Climate Change.


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