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#64 Fighting US Energy Policy with the Youth Climate Lawsuit—with Andrea Rogers of Our Children’s Trust

April 16, 2019

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The amended complaint of the youth climate lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, includes a Prayer for Relief stating that “Defendants have violated and are violating Plaintiffs’ fundamental constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property by substantially causing or contributing to a dangerous concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, and that, in so doing, Defendants dangerously interfere with a stable climate system required by our nation and Plaintiffs alike.” In other words, the government isn’t just sitting back while climate change happens, they’re implementing an energy policy that actively contributes to the problem.

Andrea Rogers is Senior Staff Attorney with Our Children’s Trust, an organization working to elevate the voice of youth in an effort to secure the legal right to a stable climate system. Andrea is a graduate of the Arizona State University School of Law, where she served as co-executive editor of Jurimetrics: The Journal of Law, Science and Technology. Her impressive resume includes roles as In-House Legal Counsel for the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe and Staff Attorney for the Western Environmental Law Center. Andrea’s environmental law practice is dedicated to reducing pollution and fighting climate change. 

Today, Andrea joins Ross and Christophe to explain why Juliana v. US qualifies as a constitutional law case, sharing the progress of the case to date and discussing how it provides a framework for decarbonization. She describes the nuances of the government’s duty to protect its citizens and counters the argument that the government didn’t know its energy policy contributed to climate change. Andrea also offers insight around the role of public trust doctrine in Juliana v. US, the court’s ability to influence policy, and the government’s defense in the case. Listen in to understand the role of the judiciary in setting new precedent and learn how you can support Our Children’s Trust in furthering this landmark case.

Resources 

Our Children’s Trust

Join Juliana

No Ordinary Lawsuit Podcast

Juliana v. US

Professor Mary Wood

DeShaney v. Winnebago County

Obama at the 2018 Rice University Gala

Obergefell v. Hodges

Brown v. Board of Education

McCleary v. State of Washington

DC v. Heller

Green New Deal

Jimmy Jia on RCC EP057

Jeff Sachs

Evolved Energy Research

Carbon Removal Newsroom

Review RCC on iTunes

Connect with Ross & Christophe

Nori

Nori on Facebook

Nori on Twitter

Nori on Medium

Nori on YouTube

Nori on GitHub

Email [email protected]

Nori White Paper

Subscribe on iTunes

Key Takeaways 

[1:38] Andrea’s path to reversing climate change

  • Father founder of environmental law
  • ASU for Science and the Law program
  • Wrote litigation manual for 2011 suit
  • On team filed Juliana v. US in 2015

[5:11] The legal flaw of laws passed to protect the environment

  • Prior to passage, file on ‘nuisance grounds’ (judge’s discretion)
  • Laws legalized certain levels of air, water pollution

[8:20] Why Juliana v. US qualifies as a constitutional law case

  • Youth born into dangerous climate system
  • Consequences infringe on liberty

[10:29] The argument that the government doesn’t have a duty to protect

  • Not obligated to take action to protect
  • Prohibited from authorizing policy that causes harm
  • Duty to protect if place person in position of danger (e.g.: DeShaney)

[13:10] The argument that the government didn’t know it was contributing to climate change

  • Control energy systems, future with policy
  • Duty to certain amount of knowledge re: consequences 

[15:19] The progress of Juliana v. US to date

  • Judge Ann Aiken found right to stable climate system = attribute of liberty
  • Government moved to dismiss case 12 times (prevent from going to trial)

[19:10] The cases that inspire Andrea’s team as precedent

[22:50] The role of public trust doctrine in the case of Juliana v. US

  • Government cannot allow substantial impairment of resources
  • Plaintiffs denied access to beaches, crab on Oregon coast
  • Constitutional injury = loss of home + mental health impacts

[26:54] Why Our Children’s Trust seeks to hold executive agencies liable

  • Obligated to implement authority in way that doesn’t violate constitutional rights
  • Seeks declaratory + injunctive relief (as opposed to damages)

[28:37] Andrea’s insight on the court’s ability to influence policy

  • Cannot dictate how legislative, executive branch implement policy
  • No way to force elimination of fossil fuel subsidies

[29:54] The role of the judicial branch in setting new precedents

  • Liberal courts willing to expand notion of individual rights
  • Constitutional traditionalists hesitate to apply discretion in interpreting law 

[32:27] How Juliana v. US provides a framework for decarbonization

  • Must show that injuries redressable
  • 21 experts developing pathways to get US off fossil fuels

[36:29] The other issues that might use Juliana v. US as precedent

  • Gun violence
  • Institutional reform 

[41:18] The role of the Supreme Court

  • Bulwark to protect constitutional rights
  • Expected to change with societal norms

[44:18] The government’s argument regarding Juliana v. US

  • Children not harmed differently from anyone else
  • Contest what experts say economically, technically feasible

[46:00] The grounds on which Our Children’s Trust might lose their case

  • Standing (youth must show personal injury differs from others)
  • Must prove US energy policy responsible for problem
  • Court must accept role to review executive, legislative actions
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