Teens in Oregon Court Case Press State Officials, as Public Trustees, to Protect the Air We Breathe

Two teenagers have spearheaded a legal strategy, dating back to ancient Rome, which holds their state officials accountable to protect the atmosphere – the air we breathe – in public trust for all its citizens. Together with Our Children’s Trust, Kelsey Juliana (now 19) and Olivia Chernaik (now 14) have spent years contending that it is the duty of the Oregon state legislature to protect its citizens’ constitutional rights to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live healthy lives. Quite simply, our kids are begging our local elected officials to step up to protect the vital resources we all need to survive.

This landmark lawsuit could set a precedent mandating that states act more aggressively to advance meaningful solutions to secure a healthy atmosphere and stable climate for our present and future generations. Lawyers for the teens say that the state’s carbon emission reduction plan is too weak. But Oregon’s government attorneys argue that the state has already enacted enough regulations to protect the environment, and that it is the responsibility of the legislature and the governor – not the courts – to set policies and laws. The Court of Appeals ruled that state courts do have the authority to consider the issues, and Lane County’s Circuit Judge Karsten Rasmussen is expected to issue a ruling in the coming weeks.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in all 50 states in an effort to pressure governments to speed up efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Stay tuned, and thanks to young climate leaders like Kelsey and Olivia who are stepping up to act on climate. Please join us on the Path to Positive.

Judge hears historic climate case

By Jack Moran | The Register-Guard | April 8, 2015

A lawsuit that seeks to force state lawmakers to work harder to address climate change also draws a protest outside court.

A Lane County judge on Tuesday heard arguments in a potentially precedent-setting case brought by two Eugene teenagers seeking a court ruling that would force state lawmakers to work harder on a plan to reduce carbon emissions and help stave off climate change.

One of the two plaintiffs, 19-year-old Kelsey Juliana, sat between her two attorneys during a two-hour hearing before Lane County Circuit Judge Karsten Rasmussen, who will issue a written ruling in the coming weeks. The teens’ lawyers want Rasmussen to rule that the atmosphere is a resource that state officials have a duty to protect on behalf of the public.

Juliana and her co-plaintiff, 14-year-old Olivia Chernaik, filed suit in 2011, when they were 15 and 11 years old, respectively. Rasmussen dismissed the case in 2012 — ­saying at the time that he was being asked to do a job that should fall to the Legislature and the governor.

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