Federal District Court Judge Ann Aiken will have to make a ruling on whether or not to dismiss a climate case brought by several young plaintiffs against the government — again.

Aiken heard arguments from parties in the Juliana v. United States case in Eugene’s Wayne Lyman Morse Courthouse Wednesday.

Julia Olson, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said the case is about constitutional rights.

During a press conference on the courthouse steps after the hearing, Olson said the plaintiffs are fighting a request for a stay before the Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, the administration asked the Supreme Court to suspend the trial.

Justice Anthony Kennedy has asked plaintiffs to respond to the Supreme Court motion by Monday, according to Our Children’s Trust spokeswoman Meg Ward.

Olsen said some of the key cases the plaintiffs are relying on are ones that Kennedy wrote.

In court, Olson said, “The Constitution is silent on whether there should be a fossil fuel energy system, but it speaks loudly about protecting liberty. We believe the courts will use their authority under the Constitution to protect young Americans from the climate crisis.”

She said she’s confident the plaintiffs will prevail in their argument.

In addition to multiple motions for dismissal, attorneys for the government have also asked for the president to be removed from the lawsuit.

Plaintiffs agreed on the basis that they be able to bring claims at a later date if necessary.

In court, Department of Justice lawyers told Aiken that Trump should only be dismissed on the basis that the plaintiffs are barred from bringing claims against him in the future.

Last year, the fossil fuel industry was removed as a defendant in the case.

Earlier this month, Chief Judge Sidney Thomas, Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon and Circuit Judge Friendland denied a motion by the defense to suspend proceedings.

Philip Gregory, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said if the government harms these citizens then it’s time for the youth to stand up in court and for the court to issue a remedy.

“The government conceded that these plaintiffs have been injured and have been injured by the climate crisis,” Gregory said.

He said Aiken was wise in observing that the case is climate crisis driven.

In court, DOJ attorney Frank Singer said, “It is really third parties that are contributing to this, not the United States.”

On the courthouse steps, 21-year-old Jacob Lebel, of Roseburg, said by promoting fossil fuels over renewables, the government is depriving him of food and water security.

“I’ve been suing the government for three years and during those three years I have seen the trees on my farm close to Roseburg, Oregon, start dying because of drought stress. I’ve breathed in the smoke that is getting worse and worse every year from the mega wildfires in our region that are fueled by climate change,” he said.

He said knowing it’s only the tip of the iceberg for what’s in store for his generation is one of the worst feelings.

“Of all the crimes that a nation can commit against its citizens, the deliberate and conscious poisoning of the very basic resources that we will depend on is probably the most far-reaching and insidious,” Lebel said.

Aji Piper, another plaintiff in the case, said the government argued that the plaintiffs have no standing because they can’t attribute the harms they face to specific emissions by the government.

The Seattle resident said forests are his safe space and give him a break from the hustle and bustle of life.

“When there’s not enough forest to spend time in because its all been burned up by wildfires that’s a harm,” 17-year-old Piper said.

The suit was originally filed in 2015. For now, a trial in the case is scheduled to begin in Eugene on Oct. 29.

Saphara Harrell can be reached at 541-957-4216 or sharrell@nrtoday.com. Or on Twitter


React to this story:


Crime and Natural Resources Reporter

Saphara Harrell is the crime and natural resources reporter for The News-Review. She previously worked at The World in Coos Bay. Follow her on Twitter @daisysaphara.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.