Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral argument in United States v. United States District Court for the District of Oregon. The Ninth Circuit is considering the federal government’s petition for a writ of mandamus challenging the district court’s order in Juliana v. United States, 217 F. Supp. 3d 1224 (D. Or. 2016). The district court had denied the government’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit that the court summarized as follows:
Plaintiffs allege defendants have known for more than fifty years that the carbon dioxide (“CO2”) produced by burning fossil fuels was destabilizing the climate system in a way that would “significantly endanger plaintiffs, with the damage persisting for millenia.” First. Am. Compl. ¶ 1. Despite that knowledge, plaintiffs assert defendants, “[b]y their exercise of sovereign authority over our country’s atmosphere and fossil fuel resources, ... permitted, encouraged, and otherwise enabled continued exploitation, production, and combustion of fossil fuels, ... deliberately allow[ing] atmospheric CO2 concentrations to escalate to levels unprecedented in human history[.]” Id. ¶ 5. Although many different entities contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, plaintiffs aver defendants bear “a higher degree of responsibility than any other individual, entity, or country” for exposing plaintiffs to the dangers of climate change. Id. ¶ 7. Plaintiffs argue defendants’ actions violate their substantive due process rights to life, liberty, and property, and that defendants have violated their obligation to hold certain natural resources in trust for the people and for future generations.
217 F. Supp. 3d at 1233.