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SCOTUS Blocks Climate Suit             10/22 07:22

   SEATTLE (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday temporarily blocked a 
high-profile climate change lawsuit brought by young activists who accuse the 
federal government of violating their constitutional rights with policies that 
have caused a dangerous climate.

   Chief Justice John Roberts signed an order freezing the trial that was set 
to start in 10 days in federal court in Oregon until lawyers for the young 
people provide a response and the high court issues another order.

   It marked a victory for the government, which under the Obama and Trump 
administrations has tried unsuccessfully for years to get the case dismissed. 
An expert says the Trump administration tried again before the Oct. 29 trial as 
the court shifted to the right with the confirmation this month of Brett 
Kavanaugh.

   The Supreme Court refused to toss the lawsuit in July, calling it 
"premature." 

   Justice Department lawyers asked again Thursday, arguing that the claim aims 
to redirect federal environmental policies through the courts rather than 
through the political process.

   Julia Olson, a lawyer representing the young plaintiffs and chief legal 
counsel for Our Children's Trust, said they are confident the trial will move 
forward once the justices receive their response, which is due by Wednesday.

   The Supreme Court has recognized in other cases that review of 
constitutional questions "is better done on a full record where the evidence is 
presented and weighed," she said in an email. "This case is about already 
recognized fundamental rights and children's rights of equal protection under 
the law."

   The young people say government officials have known for more than 50 years 
that carbon pollution from fossil fuels was causing climate change and that 
policies on oil and gas deprive them of life, liberty and property. They also 
say the government has failed to protect natural resources as a "public trust" 
for future generations.

   The lawsuit wants a court to order the government to stop permitting and 
authorizing fossil fuels, quickly phase out carbon dioxide emissions to a 
certain level by 2100 and develop a national climate recovery plan.

   The Trump administration got a temporary reprieve on the case after also 
asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected the request in 
July.

   "The latest attempt to get the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the trial does not 
appear to be based on any new evidence or arguments. The only new element is an 
additional Supreme Court justice," said Melissa Scanlan, a professor at Vermont 
Law School, who is not involved in the case.

   Kavanaugh replaced the more moderate Anthony Kennedy. 

   Scanlan said the Trump administration is trying to avoid "what they're 
expecting to be a 50-day trial focused on climate disruption." The trial in 
Eugene, Oregon, was expected to wrap up in January.

   The federal government has argued in court filings that the young people 
don't have standing to bring the case and the issues should be left to the 
political branches of government, not the court.

   Jeffrey Wood, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's 
environment and natural resources division, said officials "firmly believe 
there is no legal basis for this case to be heard in federal court."

   The lawsuit "is an unconstitutional attempt to use a single court to control 
the entire nation's energy and climate policy," he said, according to prepared 
remarks for a speech he gave Friday at a conference in San Diego. "It is a 
matter of separation of powers and preserving the opportunity in our system of 
government for those policies to be decided by the elected branches, not the 
courts."

   The lawsuit is part of a nationwide effort led by the Oregon-based nonprofit 
Our Children's Trust to force states and the federal government to take action 
on climate change.

   James Hansen, a former top NASA scientist who told the world 30 years ago 
that global warming had arrived, is also part of the federal case.

   District Court Judge Ann Aiken earlier this week dismissed President Donald 
Trump as a defendant in the case and rejected arguments that the young people 
can't bring the case. She said they made specific allegations of "personal 
injuries caused by human induced climate change," including extreme weather 
events in 2016 and 2017 that led to flooding in Louisiana.

   Scanlan, the law professor, said the plaintiffs will need to show that the 
government created a danger, that they knew they created that danger and they 
"with deliberative indifference" failed to prevent harm.


(KA)

 
 
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